(Part 2 of 2) After university, I became a high school teacher, but I stayed involved with the UCM, publishing a booklet, which was very tame by today’s standards, mostly it was poetry about freedom! But still because we had links to the Black Consciousness movement, we were watched. One day, I was taken down to police headquarters, where they showed me photos of me and my friends and asked me all sorts of questions about what we were doing. Another time, I opened my door and there were 5 security policemen there with guns, and they came in and went through everything in the house. Soon after, one of my friends was detained for 90 days, and another of my friends opened his door and was shot.
Then, one day, the government decided to introduce a compulsory syllabus in schools – a booklet of pure right wing propoganda – pro apartheid and anti communist. I just didn’t want to be part of teaching it, but I knew if I didn’t, it would give them an opportunity to get rid of me, so I decided to publish an alternative booklet and to then leave the country. Somehow, I managed to run off 12 000 copies without the police knowing and I got a few friends to distribute them to school kids at bus stops.
I already had a passport organised and I was able to jump on a ship going from Australia to England. The police took me aside just as I was leaving, went through all my things, and took my address book away. But they didn’t have the paperwork to hold me. Then, at Cape Town, they were waiting for me again. But there was a group of Aussies on board who all knew what was going on and they were looking after me. When they started going through my suitcase, my cabin mate said, ‘What are you doing?’ and they said, ‘We have reason to believe that you’ve got drugs.’ And he said, ‘Look, if there are drugs there, you’ve planted them.’ Then the security guy slammed my suitcase down, put his finger in my face and said, ‘We’ll get you!’. But the ship sailed away!
In London, the Aussies looked after me, as I had lost all my contacts when the police took my address book. I got a job teaching, but I was miserable, as the weather was cold, and the pay was terrible. I still had a return ticket to South Africa, which they said I could exchange, so I decided to go to Australia. When they asked me which city I wanted to go to, I looked up at the map and said, ‘Somewhere close to the sea in the middle.’ That’s how I ended up in Adelaide with a backpack and $300 in my pocket!
I’ve since worked as a primary school teacher here, and as a school principal for 20 years. A few years ago, I retired. When I look back on my time in South Africa, sometimes I wonder if it was all worth it, as I can’t see the kind of change I was hoping for. But Australia has been good to me, and I’m happily married, with 2 beautiful daughters and 2 delightful grand daughters!
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Very interesting story indeed.
Peter every little thing makes a big difference and I’m sure what you did all those years ago made a difference to something or someone. Good on you for the contributions you have made to education in Australia… Enjoy your retirement
Don’t be disheartened Peter. You made some change and that is far better than none or if you had been inactive. My Mum recently said that her time protesting against our involvement I Vietnam had been for nothing. I disagree. Your generation provided us with a renaissance of social action. Even the smallest change is worthwhile.
What an incredibly interesting story! I’ve no doubt you made a very insightful teacher and principal. You fought hard for change. Thank you
Nice one pa x
Brindi Taissa Paris
Thank you for sharing your incredible story. Yes you have made a difference.
Made my day!
You did what you could under very trying circumstances and at great cost to yourself, and possibly your family. But you made yourself a new, and better life, in Australia, so decisions forced on you then have given you the life you deserve, now.
This is amazing. Updating my previous comment to my hero forever xxx what an amazing human xxx
Debbie van Rheenen Alex Van Rheenen
Love your story pete we are richer for you being here and your ongoing contribution to society
What an amazing inspiring story x
you was truly brave x
What an incredible life! Truly inspiring. ✌
Until all of us are free none of us are free
Hello is that you Peter J? If yes you and your family were neighbours in Prospect when I was in kindergarten and primary school! My dad also wrote and while little my parents explained to me the country you came from and why you left. I since learnt about my own country. Great to see you’re going strong 🙂
It’s so moving to read this. I was born in South Africa and came to Australia in 1981 while still in high school. My parents made the decision to leave because of apartheid. the best man at their wedding had been “banned” by the government for his involvement in a Christian organisation that helped non-whites. He was under house-arrest and was constantly watched by the not-so-secret service. I have always felt ashamed of being from SA because of what it was like living there in the ’70s under apartheid. I have a hell of a lot of respect for
Andrew van Ryneveld – part 2