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Open Features: Lammetjievanger

...“This job will make you grow,” said Mr Havenga, Secretary of the Germiston School Board.

The position of school attendance officer was vacant and I had decided to transfer from that of administrative officer at Jeppe High to one at the school board...

Marianne Hall tells of the astonishing experiences she had in he job.

“This job will make you grow,” said Mr Havenga, Secretary of the Germiston School Board.

The position of school attendance officer was vacant and I had decided to transfer from that of administrative officer at Jeppe High to one at the school board.

And grow I did, but in the most unlikely ways.

When a pupil was absent from school for ten days the principal was obliged to report this to the school board in order that an investigation be made. This entailed going to the home of the errant pupil, interviewing the parents and following up the matter.

The car provided was a Toyota.

“Are you familiar with a Toyota,” I was asked.

“Of course I am,” came the answer. No way was I going to show my ignorance. I had only driven a Datsun, a Wolseley and a Volksie.

The Toyota was parked together with three other cars under a corrugated shed. It was surrounded on three sides with diamond mesh wire fencing. I got into the car, turned on the ignition, and gingerly moved the gears. Then I put my foot on the accelerator. The car shuddered then lurched forward connecting with the wire fence. I slammed on the brakes, and put her into reverse gear. To my horror the shed was moving with the car. On examination I found that the bumper had lodged itself into the fencing.

The owners of the other cars must have been watching out of the adjacent windows. They all came rushing out.

“Have you got your licence?” one said sarcastically.”It certainly does not look like it!”

After that I was given a TPA Volksie.

My investigations led me into all sorts of situations.

One day I knocked on the door of a boarding house in Meyer Street. A thirteen year old had been playing truant for weeks.

A Black woman opened the door.

“I would like to speak to the madam,” I said.

She led me straight into the bedroom. The madam was in bed, bonking away. She withdrew a hand from under the sheets, waved cheerfully and said, “Won’t be long!” Hurriedly retreating, I could not resist a reply.”Take your time,” I said.

Ten minutes later the lady arrived, face flushed, hair disheveled, wearing a pink dressing gown with obviously nothing on underneath. I was fascinated. She was charming, obviously very popular with her clients. Tea and biscuits were served and soon we were chatting merrily away. On enquiry she told me that her daughter had a boyfriend and they were getting married. For one moment I thought I was at the wrong address. Just then the daughter arrived – her boopie well extended! Obviously her sexual urges were inherited. It did not take long to escort mother, daughter and the prospective bridegroom to the girl’s primary school where the principal took over.

Another time I stood in front of the locked door of a flat. I knocked and knocked, then heard the voice of a child wimpering and the voice of another child admonishing it. The gate at the back was locked so I scaled the wall. The pane of the glass door at the back was broken. Gingerly I put my arm through the gap and turned the key.

“Anyone home?” There was silence. Like a burglar I made my way silently up the stairs. On an unmade double bed sat two children, the older one clutching her toddler sister. They were both terrified. After offering them some sweets out of my emergency bag they were soon chatting away. The little one crawled on to my lap. Her tiny hands were covered with burn marks. Further investigation revealed bruises on her back, buttocks and arms.

“How did this happen?” I addressed the older child.

“She got burnt on the stove,” came the swift reply.

Going downstairs I found the oven door open and bent at an angle.

“Who is looking after you?” The older sibling replied that mother had to work so it was her job to look after the baby and that was why she could not go to school.

I took the children next door to the neighbor and went straight to the Social Welfare offices from where someone was immediately sent to investigate. The scars on that small child haunted me for days!

A report came in of a family of three children who were not attending school. Mr Havenga knew the family and went along with me. They lived in a very dilapidated house a long way off from the main road to Elspark. A very pleasant woman met us at the door. The table was laid for lunch, plates set out with two pots of jam, a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of homemade bread. It was a homely atmosphere.We were invited to join the family. After a short prayer everyone got stuck into the sandwiches.

Mr Havenga spoke to her as an old friend, whilst I sat back and marvelled at the way he handled the situation. I had developed a great admiration for this man in the short time I worked for him. It appeared they had no money for bus fare, they had no transport and the school was too far way. An impossible situation, so it seemed. I did not know what transpired but the children went back to school shortly afterwards and there were no further reports.

One afternoon I sat in my Volksie outside a flat in Delville waiting for a youngster to come home from school. Inside the parents were also waiting. The boy had been dropped off a school for the past two weeks but had not made an appearance in the classroom, Finally, he arrived, nonchalantly swinging his bag to and fro. He entered the flat, and I followed him inside.

His father was furious.

“Where have you been?” he repeatedly asked him. The boy did not reply.

“You hate school, don’t you?” I remarked.

With that, he burst into tears. He hated school, he hated his teacher, in fact, he hated everything. It appeared that just after having been dropped off at school by his parents he had slipped through the gate and spent the day at the Germiston Lake which was adjacent to the school. As soon as the bell rang he caught the bus home.

I had a long chat with him, told him of my pet hates and he expanded on his. The more we complained the better we felt. I understood his frustrations. I had plenty of my own. He finally agreed to go back to school to complete his education and then pursue his ambition to become a game ranger. He kept his promise and I often wondered whether he achieved his dreams.

Whilst on the track of a child in Elsburg I came upon the mother who had a large gaping hole in her leg. It looked really nasty and was starting to fester. She was obviously in great pain.

“I have no money to go to the doctor,” she said.

I had twenty rand in my bag so went to the nearest chemist for some ointment and bandages. When I explained the predicament the chemist was very sympathetic. He refused to take my money. After cleaning and dressing the wound I got so absorbed in the mother’s problems that I completely forgot about the child!

On phoning the school the next day I learnt that he had reported back!

Working at the School Board was not always a bed of roses.
Take the car for instance. My route ran past the Germiston Hospital. One day it decided to peter out right in front of the emergency entrance. In a panic I ran inside.

“This is an emergency,” I gasped.” It will take four men to remove it.”

“Four??” It took quite some explaining before they realized that it was a car and not a colossal giant that was in trouble.
When I arrived back at the office I was cheerfully informed that my predecessor had found herself holding a loose front steering wheel in her hands!

Grow I did, but not always in the right direction.

When I was told that I would have to relieve at the switchboard for a week, I bitterly resented it. This lady had piled up three weeks of typing. She spent hours on the phone chatting to her friends, was forever gossiping and reading magazines, hence the pileup. Now I would have to work my butt off in order to catch up with the backlog. I wrestled with it all weekend.

On Monday morning I arrived at work with my left wrist in a bandage and my arm in a sling. That sure was bad luck! It meant that the work had to be spread amongst all the other typists. They certainly did a lot of complaining. It took a full week for the wrist to get better! Mr Havenga accepted my explanation with a quizzical smile in his eyes. He must have known about the deliberate pileup and had probably agreed with me in principle. When the lady came back she was called into his office and after that she made sure that her work was up to date.

I had scored a point, but still felt guilty as hell every time I went into his office. I knew that he knew I’d been faking!

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