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Feather's Miscellany: The Teachers - Part 3 - Meeting Moses

...So there he was, an Anglican priest, teaching English to Muslim and Christian girls in an Italian Roman Catholic school. Being an Italian speaker, he also coached the nun who taught science. And it was while cycling to the school that he first met Moses, a deaf-mute who lived close by the Cathedral...

And Moses becomes an invaluable friend and ally as violent riots sweep through the Sudanese capital.

John Waddington-Feather continues his account of teaching in Africa.

Jack soon settled into his new routine, teaching English to undergraduates with only a piece of chalk and a blackboard. No sophisticated teaching aids here, and unlike in England, he was listened to intently and thanked by his students each day as they left the lecture theatre.

English teachers were at a premium and they knew it. Teachers were treated with great respect by the population at large as the bearers of knowledge and high standards of living to the next generation. Their role was akin to the imams and priests.

Jack also picked up a second job quite by chance at a school run by Italian nuns in the Roman Catholic Cathedral precincts. Their English teacher had suddenly resigned, leaving the fifth year high and dry in the middle of their leaving-exam course. Jack was approached and agreed to help them.

So there he was, an Anglican priest, teaching English to Muslim and Christian girls in an Italian Roman Catholic school. Being an Italian speaker, he also coached the nun who taught science. And it was while cycling to the school that he first met Moses, a deaf-mute who lived close by the Cathedral.

Moses had his pitch right next to the Cathedral. His home was simply a niche in a wall across the alley from the school. His entire possessions were stored in a hole in that wall where he slept each night wrapped in his tattered blanket.

Moses was in his twenties I guess; of medium height but well-built compared with many of his fellow countrymen. He was also intelligent as Jack Pedwar discovered the longer he got to know him.

Despite the famine raging then he had enough to eat. The good nuns made sure of that. There was sufficient food in the capital, which was why so many refugees headed for it, trekking hundreds of miles across the great desert to get there if they were lucky.

Moses never begged. He picked up the odd job here and there in the city, working in the souks and returning each night to his pitch. Sometimes he was there when Jack left the school to go back to the University. Then, he would stop and chat with Moses as an unspoken friendship developed between them. Neither spoke the other's language but they communicated well by signs and facial expressions.

When they had done, Jack would mount his bicycle and ride off, Moses holding his saddle and jogging beside him till they reached the university, where Moses would wave goodbye and run back. It was as if the mute was making sure he'd got back safely, and Jack was glad he did this as the tension in the city mounted and violent mobs began to appear on the streets.

As the violence began to increase, Moses, by deftly manipulating the saddle, would direct Jack back safely through back streets and alleys to avoid the riots.

The weeks went by and the violence grew. Mahmoud and his followers became the focus of the growing unrest against the General, whose corrupt government fuelled the crisis. When petrol ran out, the serious rioting and looting began.

Food could no longer be brought into the city by road. Of course, it was still flown in to the luxury hotels in town where foreigners lived and the General entertained his guests - and where the hungry and dying lay round the high security fences outside.

The heat and disease began to take their toll of Jack. It was inevitable given the conditions in which he lived in his Arab village. He picked up dysentery and a mild form of hepatitis. The heat overpowered him and he would lie for hours under his mosquito net, sweating profusely as his body tried to cope.

Yet he grimly carried on teaching, and as the political situation became graver the more closely knit the staff at ELSU became. Moses began staying on at the office after a time, sipping the tea given him before returning to his pitch.

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