Apartheid was bad, but it made us creative

You can blame apartheid for anything, but we have to give credit where it is due - the system imbued its victims with oodles of creativity, albeit unwittingly.

You can blame apartheid for anything, but we have to give credit where it is due - the system imbued its victims with oodles of creativity, albeit unwittingly.

Some of us who had the excruciating experience of being tear gassed in the townships, will remember how the effects of the gas were counteracted by merely putting a wet cloth over the mouth and nose. I can't vouch that it worked, though, but many claimed it did.

It was knowledge not gleaned from science text books, for even barefoot tiny urchins barely in school knew exactly what to do when tear gas canisters exploded in their midst.

The late PAC stalwart, Martin Ntsoelengoe, who did time on Robben Island in the 1960s, told me how the prisoners used to make their own beer in prison out of potatoes. When they got sozzled, the warders probably thought they were just being plain, stupid blacks, as God made them to be.

The creative streak takes on a different hue when it gets into the classroom. We have to face it: the bulk of our teachers are themselves victims of bantu education, whether they imbibed it themselves or were taught by those who were processed through it.

I heard, personally, on several occasions, teachers malteachingyoung minds. The first instance, in Winterveldt, was when a young lady teacher at a lower primary school confidently led her little ones reciting the classic rhyme, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (How I wonder what you are).

The animated mistress, obviously enjoying her job, asked the children to say after her: "Twinky twinky littly star .... Ha! ah wonder ha you are!"

Well, well, well.

Even we who were fortunate enough to be taught in our formative years by teachers who had come out of the then Royal Education era, never understood what in the heavens the words of the rhyme meant - until we were old enough to find out on our own.

Which is probably why I forgive the other young woman (again) who was leading a group of young children in a sing-along at a youth club.

The song goes: "You are a Child of the Universe ..."

But the cheerful lady in charge of the children decided to translate the lyrics to: "You are an shine, and then you reverse ..."

A few weeks ago I went to an international boxing tournament in Ekurhuleni and was seated next to a roly-poly Afrikaner who tried his best to prove his "new South Africa" credentials to me. He tried to make conversation and now and again threw in an isiZulu word, scoring nought out of 10 for grammar, but full marks for making the effort.

When the time came to sing the national anthem, hand on his heart, he bellowed off-key: "Kosi sing-a-long in Afrikaans ... Marie pakarisi pondo rayo ..."

Indeed, apartheid scarred and divided us, but it made us a creative lot.

l Charles Mogale is editor of Sunday World.

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