Barberton hostel’s rules were definitely based on the Afrikaans culture, from the separation of the sexes, haircuts, choice of food to the attendance of church. After breakfast, that normally consisted of corn porridge (lumpy and normally undercooked) a slice of bread and a cup of tea, the separated sexes were lined up in two’s and then marched to the actual school, girls in front, boys following.
Once at the school, the different language groups immediately dispersed to find their respective friends of the appropriate language. The English and Afrikaans teachers also practiced a type of Apartheid, even though they shared a common staff room. The English teachers were also a lot more humane then their Afrikaans counterparts, so we English speakers would try and remain close to the English supervisor during breaks, as our chances of being punished if we strayed too close to the Afrikaans side of the playground was about a hundred times more likely than if we stayed on our side.
Actual lessons were not at all that bad, as all but one subject was taught in English by Englishmen, the exception being Afrikaans itself. It was a subject that we all learned to dread, I think most of us would have preferred being caned six of the best, than have to attend Afrikaans lessons. The Spanish inquisition would have been proud to have our Afrikaans teacher as one of their interrogators. He hated us English speaking kids and made no bones about it either. Afrikaans is a rather guttural language and most English speakers battle with the pronunciation. I was told once that to speak it properly, it helps if you have a throat disease.
As none of us had even a sore throat, let alone cancer of the throat, we battled with the correct pronunciation. Whenever we got it wrong, we were caned. The theory I suppose being that we would try harder to avoid pain or maybe it was just the theory that knowledge could be beaten into a child, both theories failed miserably.
At the end of lessons it was back into lines and the march back to the hostel. After lunch the primary school children had the afternoon off, the high school kids were marched off for the afternoon session.
The one thing that was extremely foreign to me was the fact that children were allowed to go to school barefoot, at all the other schools I had attended if you walked around barefoot you were punished. I was to find out that in general the Afrikaans population was poor and many could not afford to buy their children shoes, that did not stop them affording alcohol, just shoes and school uniforms were unaffordable.
Lots of Hugs and more,