Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Remember Whensday: School Days

In my school uniform beside my brother

This week was back to school for some children in Ontario and it is the first time I remember school starting before Labour Day. Because Labour Day is late this month and there are a required number of school days each year, some school boards decided to open their classrooms on September 1st. Other schools will not start until next Tuesday.

I began school in South Africa in a formal British educational system. Mom taught me to read as a preschooler and I was allowed to start my education at a younger age than average. I remember throwing up my breakfast before leaving each morning and my early school experiences were not pleasant. I had a very strict teacher who used a ruler on our hands if we made a mistake. I was punished in Class One for saying that 1+0=0. If I remember correctly, that teacher became ill and my own mother, who was a trained teacher, became the substitute for a while. School was no longer a frightening place.

I am on the right with school friends

We moved to another part of Durban and went to a different school which I enjoyed and therefore did well in my classes. We wore uniforms and carried satchels which likely contained little more than our lunches. School started very early in the morning and ended in the early afternoon before the hottest time of the day. I studied Africaans, learned to sew by hand and practiced very neat script writing by my third year in school. I had an excellent start in school because of the high standards and discipline in this educational system and was far ahead of my classmates when we returned to Canada.

My new South African Flag May 31, 1961

On May 31, 1961 South Africa left the British Commonwealth and became a republic. We all received South Africa's new flag at school and I have it to this day in a scrapbook Mom made for me. Africa has changed so much since this time as the continent decolonized, breaking ties with the European nations who had controlled governments and policies for many years. I remember some of the riots and the turmoil after 1961 in this country which was strictly segregated by race...

...and I will soon tell a story about friends who were affected greatly by changes in Africa which started in the 1960s when I was still a young school girl.

Remember Whensday
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  1. What memories for you! I was looking at your "backpack" in the first photo and wonder how the kids today would react to a "backpack" like that. I'm sorry you had such a harsh teacher. I can understand why you were "throwing' up every morning. You certainly have experienced SO much in your life. What wonderful memories and stories for us to hear.

  2. A very interesting read ... such clear memories you have of that time. Africa really did change after decolonization. I spent some months in Ivory Coast (French control in this case) and tribalism was very strong ... making for a lot of contention between the African groups.

  3. I didn't know how to read and was quite miffed when I still didn't know how after the first day.

  4. Wow--Being hit with a ruler on your hand would be pretty traumatic for a child. But it doesn't seem to have scarred you for life. What an interesting life you have had!

  5. Ruth: This was such an interesting story; you've certainly lived through some amazing history where you are. -- I know so little about other countries but some memories are understood no matter where one grew up. (I am thinking about a few bad school experiences, although for the most part I liked it). Sallie

    I'm delighted you took time to visit and comment on our blog. If you ever come to the states there are some great interpretiveabout the Oregon Trail and western migration experience. (The movies you've seen may be more fun though ;>)

  6. I have friends who just travelled to outside of Durban to adopt their second child. I knew you had lived other places when you were growing up, but I didn't know S.Africa was one of these places! I love the pics. :O)

  7. You had such an unusual and interesting childhood.
    What a shame your teacher scared a poor innocent child enough to make her sick.
    Glad you moved to a school where you could learn in a more relaxed environment.
    Cute photos!

  8. Oh, I remember the cursive we learned in third grade! We were actually given a grade in penmanship. I recently read an article called, "I'm 26 and I don't know how to write."

    I do love your Wednesday posts. Such interesting photographs and stories. I look forward to them every week.

  9. My goodness .. your early education sounds so much (more) comprehensive than here in the States. I, too, marvel at that mean-spirited teacher. What inner demeans so provoked her, ya wonder? Thank goodness, you had the spirit to rise above!

    Your post was very enjoyable; thank you!


  10. It was such a shame that the thought of going to school made you ill each morning. Thank goodness the baddie teacher became ill herself and you were all "saved" by your mom.

    Great pictures to go with your story. I look forward to reading more about your South African friends.

    Thanks for sharing this week.

  11. What a neat blazer. Here in New Zealand, most primary schools do not have a uniform. My school where I teach, is one of those. the little girls love pink and purple.

    My own school in Borneo was an American Methodist school. My uniform wasn't exactly a sailor's collar, and it was very difficult to sew. Most of us girls didn't have very good looking uniform. at that time, ( 50 years ago) mums sew.



  12. What sweet memories Ruth. Thankfully, the mean teacher did not last long!

  13. I truly love the brown hats. Great memories, even of the harsh teacher.

  14. That uniform was very formal for grade school. And that satchel does look cumbersome. Only your lunch in there?

    I don;t remember much of my own early years in school. it's great that you remember so much of it becuase you lived through that history.


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