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past affected the present

POLITICISED: Fanyana Mazibuko, a teacher at the height of Bantu Education. Pic: Bathini Mbatha. 14/06/2010. © Sowetan. 14 June 2010. Fanyana Mazibuko, is going down the memory lane as a teach during 1976, students uprising in Soweto. Photo by Bathini Mbatha
POLITICISED: Fanyana Mazibuko, a teacher at the height of Bantu Education. Pic: Bathini Mbatha. 14/06/2010. © Sowetan. 14 June 2010. Fanyana Mazibuko, is going down the memory lane as a teach during 1976, students uprising in Soweto. Photo by Bathini Mbatha

FANYANA Mazibuko has told the story of June 1976 many times over. With the onset of age, he laughs, detail and sequence might start to change and soon he'd be accused of lying.

"It is one of those things you will die without forgetting, especially if you were at the centre of things.

"You will also have some traumas about it that will never leave you. When you think of people who lost their lives, some having died without seeing the fruits of what they fought for."

He was a teacher at the famed Morris Isaacson High School in Soweto, where Tsietsi Mashinini was a pupil.

Thirty-four years later he laments that "key things we fought for are not prioritised".

"People want to have somewhere they can call home, people want to see their children get an education, want to know that they will be cared for when they are sick. They want to see a civil service and justice system that function properly.

"People want to see themselves being able to make a living in a society that recognises hard work; a society that does not reward criminality and corruption."

These, in his view, are some extrapolations of what 1976 was all about. It wasn't just protest against an inferior quality of education, he says.

"We fought for equality, for a total opening of choice to go to schools that are equal.

"We fought that a parent could easily choose a school in Soweto and get a good education for their child, or have the liberty to choose a school in Houghton, which was a state school and have free access to that."

Those who paid with their lives are surely turning in their graves when they see certain things they fought for being corrupted - like open-air toilets built for people. The mushrooming squatter camps are surely an eyesore for these departed heroes, he says.

The watershed student uprising was about a whole lot of things to make the lives of people better, he says, using the analogy of causing an explosion.

Education merely happened to be the spark.

A teacher who got into the profession quite by chance after being expelled from medical school in Natal "before (Steve) Biko", Mazibuko taught physics and chemistry.

He counts among his many products the likes of Susan Shabangu, Thami Ntenteni, Murphy Morobe and Kgomotso Moroka. But is the quality of our current education of the sort that can produce quality students of the calibre of his products?

"It has failed to demonstrate that. Its implementation has been problematic. That is why you see so many changes in the curriculum."

Badly trained teachers will continue to churn out inferior products, "charges" he calls them.

Very well-spoken, he's the kind of person you'd want to leave to speak uninterrupted.

He talks with a lot of pain about how the past has affected the present. The amount of money spent on a white child was five times more than that used to educate a black child, he says.

"This is why it is so difficult to bring schools in Soweto up to the required standard," he points out.

"The schools were built to be below par. Systems were put in place to make our communities poor. It was a design that created liars and criminals.

"The drugs in our schools were put there by the system that wanted to destroy the black child. A lot of young people who did not understand what was required of them were used by the (police's) Special Branch to deal drugs and guns in schools."

A teacher at the height of Bantu Education, he says "we did not teach Bantu Education. If there was any part of the curriculum which was designed to enslave our charges we went over it."

He credits this visionary approach in their work to his principal, Legau Mathabathe: "A fantastic principal."

The anecdotes and plaudits he gives Mathabathe are a story on their own - they are vast.

Mathabathe was a thorn on the side of the apartheid system. This is the same school head that employed Onkgopotse Tiro after the latter was expelled from Turfloop (now University of Limpopo).

The authorities wanted the principal to get rid of Tiro but Mathabathe would hear none of it.

Mazibuko, despite being so politicised, taught and loved Afrikaans.

"There's poetry in Afrikaans that resonated with me," says the pedagogue, who has penned a cluster of poems himself.

"What I did not want was Afrikaans being shoved down my throat."

With other like-minded political opstokers (troublemakers) like Curtis Nkondo, they never made things easy for the apartheid forces. Teaching has left Mazibuko "fulfilled".

It is such a good feeling he puts it another way: "Teaching has sustained my sanity."

A teacher through and through, he now runs TEASA - the Trust for Educational Advancement in South Africa whose objective is to ... teach teachers.

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