Year 5 Spring 1 – Apartheid talks

Visit from Paddy Venner – Friday 21st January 2022

Paddy came to take the year 5 classes for a workshop about being brought up in South Africa amidst apartheid.

He explained that before 1994, South Africa was a racist country. We discussed what we understood by racism and then he showed us two quotes to reflect on. “What you tolerate you endorse” and “Bad things happen when you do nothing.” So these are saying that what you allow to happen, you basically agree with. Eg if you see bullying and do nothing, you are thereby saying you are ok with that. This got the children thinking about responsibilities in society.

Next we refreshed our map work skills and located South Africa on a world map and found out that South Africa is divided into provinces where as England is divided into counties. Eleven languages are spoken in South Africa. Paddy comes from Cape Town, a beautiful place with a Table mountain. We saw pictures of the Ring of Fire football stadium which lights up at night and a spinning cable car to see the views.

When Paddy was at school, he was taught that people with white skins are better. He acknowledges that he had a privileged upbringing…because he was white. He never saw black children until he was older. Most houses where he lived had swimming pools, which they enjoyed after school because it was so hot. Many boys would also walk around barefoot because it was too hot for shoes.

Schools there now have mixed race classes and that is how it should be. “A vase of flowers is beautiful because it has different colours,” he told us.

Paddy went on to talk about an Apartheid government. He was impressed with our understanding of apartheid and said it had the word “part” inside, to help us remember. In 1957 The Group Areas Act was a new law which said you could only live in a certain neighbourhood according to your skin colour. We discussed this in our local context and the children were shocked. Can you imagine being forced to move out of your house because of your skin colour? People with white skin could go anywhere. You could work together but had to use separate facilities. Facilities for the white people were clean as well as being cleaned by black people, yet the black facilities were broken and dirty, suggesting they were not good enough to deserve better. Lots of South Africans had to move to other countries in order to live as mixed race couples. Paddy kept reinforcing how awful this was. Some white people were incredibly rich, living in comfortable areas whilst black people were forced to live in huts made of recycled scraps of wood. Some were so poor they couldn’t look after their children so they became known as “street children” some as young as 4 years old. Some of these children ended up in prison, just for stealing the food that they were desperate for.

We considered how dangerous this would be; strangers could take them away. Many children were forced to live like this until some churches decided to stop this and provide some accommodation for them; they now have proper schools to attend.

Paddy showed us the signs he saw around his neighbourhood as he was growing up.

We had discussions around this.

“This school is for white people only.”

“Beach and Sea – Whites only”.

 “European and non-European Hospital.”

The football stadium even had 3 premier leagues to accommodate different races in different teams.

The drive-in cinema had a wall built down the middle, with cars for white people on one side of the wall and cars for non-whites parked on the other side of the wall.

As a result of this, there were riots and protests in the streets because people knew how wrong and awful this was.

Alicia asked Paddy how seeing these signs made him feel. Paddy said, initially, as a child, he thought this was normal, though his mum made it clear to him that this was not right. He then felt guilty having to live with this situation.

Nearby there is an island called Robben (Dutch word for seal) Island, which houses a big jail, where Paddy has visited and played his guitar for the prisoners, but it is a museum now. In 1964 Nelson Mandela was put in this prison for 26 years on Robben Island, for letting the government know that apartheid was unjust. There is power in forgiveness. Nelson Mandela never showed anger on his release. He went on to be the first black President of a “Rainbow Nation.”

Paddy told us about some inspirational black sports people who would not have been recognised under apartheid.

To end the session, he then played his guitar and sang a song about a street child, which absolutely captivated the children’s attention.

The children were very struck by the powerful way that Paddy described how very wrong and terrible this all was.

Megan told Paddy about a book,” Journey to Jo’berg” that she remembered reading in year 4.

Paddy was very impressed with the children’s knowledge and prior learning.