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U3A Writing: The Boys

…She found that the students’ interests lay in the history of the Russian Revolution, not in maths or English.

She was with her class on the night of June 15th with no inkling of the planned march to protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction…

Zelda Margo recalls the incident of 30 years ago which marked the beginning of South Africa’s democratic revolution.

The phone rang. A cultured English voice.

“Sally, I know Rickie told you that last year ’75, we opened the Bridgeman Memorial Church Centre for pre-school children.”

On the phone Bert, a priest and husband of a colleague.

“Yes, Bert.”

“We are opening a support class for Standards eight and ten. Evening classes.”

“How can I help?”

“By teaching your subjects – maths and English.”

Those were the days when a white person required a permit to enter Soweto.

Sally, who taught at a Northern suburb school, became involved with the project in Zola, Soweto.

She found that the students., predominantly boys, interests lay in the history of the Russian Revolution, not in maths or English.

She was with her class on the night of June 15th with no inkling of the planned march to protest against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction.

The children’s peaceful march was turned into a riot. The date June 16th 1976 symbolises the start of South Africa’s democratic revolution.

One of Sally’s students, Vincent, was shot. A fellow student, Amos, said, “I lay next to him to take his shape. The violence was terrible.”

It spelt the end of the support project.

A number of the boys came to Sally’s home to continue their lessons right up to the time that she and her husband left for England.

Rickie continued teaching at her place and forged lasting friendships with the boys.

There followed years of what Desmond Tutu called – “BEING A PRISONER OF HOPE.”


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