Frederick B. Philander In retrospect, I am not sure whether it was coincidence, a premonition or my own news sense, but I was there dead on the spot the morning when it all happened – the floods at Mariental. Not only could I write one of the first first-hand accounts of the start of the flood that transformed the southern town in no time into a watery and muddy mess, but also I encountered a number of real issues during that time. After the Friday’s news hunting journey in and around Mariental and Gibeon, I decided to stay over at the town. That evening in the hotel’s bar – what else is there socially to do in a town like that on a Friday evening – I met with the manager of the pig farm and some Zimbabweans running the farm. The guys spoke “land and sand” about their economic achievements of Top Pig. So intrigued I became about the existence of the purported 15 thousand pigs being produced and sold to local markets, I made arrangements for an in loco interview on the Saturday morning, an event that never took place because the pig farm was flooded the next morning. I wonder what Animal Farm’s George Orwell would have said about this coincidence? The newspaper mission also brought to light some discoveries of the education system in the South. Earlier the Friday morning, I arrived at Gibeon at 11h00 to find basically all the village’s schools shut down for the day because it being an “out weekend” for the hostel dwellers, there was probably nothing new to teachers and learners of the South. Old habits really die hard. This was the respite that principals and those teachers possessing farms looked forward to and they hurriedly disappear to their activities as part-time farmers. This time around the principals of the town’s schools had apparently been invited to attend a name-change ceremony at a school in Kries, to the east of the town. The question is how can education be properly practiced if every little ritual from school sport day to any other simple custom is abused as a possibility to get away from teaching? There definitely exists a lack of commitment. Everyone, teachers and learners at //Aoseb Secondary School were excitedly, but casually, loitering around and waiting for the “out weekend” bell to ring. Passing one of the few classes actually actively involved in teaching at that time of the morning, I overheard English being spoken in a less than average way. It took me back to my days as a teacher advising learners to: “stop thinking in your mother tongue, translating what you think in your mother tongue into Afrikaans and then translating the Afrikaans into English before actually speaking English”. That was my advice so that they would not confuse themselves when speaking English. For some, the advice worked; for others, it never worked. “The Mariental floods really brought some weird happenings about,” I thought to myself as I was leaving just in time, before the floodwaters really hit the fan and I could still drive to the capital before 12 noon, a lucky escape from being stranded in the South.
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