UNIVERSITY ENTRANCE EXAMINATION

Look what fell out of a pile of papers I was sorting through the other day: the examination time-table for what we called Matric – the last year of our secondary schooling. How well I remember that time: so much depended on the results of those examinations. For me a university entrance pass would be the ticket to exploring another part of the country and an opportunity to broaden my horizons and future prospects in ways I was still unsure of.

There is no longer a Transvaal Education Department. Transvaal as a province no longer exists – the part of it we lived in is now called Mpumalanga.

How well I remember the lump in my stomach sitting for the two Mathematics papers – they were the biggest hurdle to my future.

Then came the other hurdle: Physical Science. This is because we had been taught that subject all the way through in Afrikaans, which meant that I had to turn to the Afrikaans side of the question paper to see what each question was requiring of me as I did not recognise the English names of anything!

There was such joy when all was over … I left the Transvaal to make my home in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) for many years and, after several moves, now reside in the Eastern Cape – which used to be part of the Cape Province. Just seeing this sheet of paper again after so many years makes me realise how different my life may have turned out had I not gained a university entrance – or not passed the examinations at all!

What memories do you have of your final school examinations?

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ACTING

It was while sorting through a pile of very old papers that I came across this programme which reminded me of one of the happiest episodes of my high school career: acting in The Admirable Crichton, a delightful play by J.M. Barrie.

Casting my eye down the list of people involved in bringing it all together, unlocks memories of people, of laughter, and of snippets from a time when we were poised on the cusp of change in our lives – some to work, some to study further, but all of us still closely bonded by the camaraderie that comes from being in a relatively small school.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While memories of some of the people behind the names have faded with time, others stand out as if I had been with them yesterday. Of the boys, there is one who, when we were in Standard Six (now Grade 8), led the charge against our Religious Instruction teacher who had told us solemnly that the Earth is flat and is supported by seven pillars. What did we know at that young age except that we had learned by heart in Geography the various proofs that the Earth is round! [You are allowed to laugh now, just don’t fall off your chair]. Our class never had another RI class for the rest of our school career as a result of this altercation.

Another will always be remembered for the wonders he could do with the mace whilst marching ahead of our school cadet band – and for getting a hiding after ending a beautiful rendition of I am a Rock at a school concert with I am a Rock, I am a Spider [South African readers will recognise this as a slur on Afrikaners at the time – a rather rash thing for this boy to have done, considering the ratio at our school was one English-speaker to every four Afrikaans-speakers! The teachers were not amused!]. Yet another later became related to me by marriage: he and I had the ghastly experience of singing There’s a hole in my bucket dear Liza during our initiation concert during the first weekend of our boarding school experience. That proved to be my stage debut.

I corresponded with several of the girls for a number of years after leaving school – one I had known since Grade 2 and still correspond with occasionally, the others gradually faded away as their interests diverged from mine.

Such thoughts never entered our heads during the rehearsals and run-up to the opening night of The Admirable Crichton. We enjoyed the novel experience of presenting an entirely English production; enjoyed getting the stage ready; trying on costumes; and putting on make-up … I see that I was one of several girls roped in to be responsible for costumes even then. This is a role I took on when I joined the Dramatic Society at university – no acting for me then, but sewing costumes, altering them and helping out with the make-up. Once I was working, I opted to take on the role of cue mistress for staff productions – rather stressful at times when my colleagues extemporised whole sections of the text, keeping me on my toes throughout!

The Admirable Crichton – fancy the programme turning up after all these years! What a load of memories it holds!