Mr Pratish Singh (Fellow Teacher at Foresthaven Secondary)

As BP’s friend and an ex – teacher, having started and ended my 15 year teaching career at Foresthaven Secondary School, it is indeed great to make a small contribution to this project.

Among the strengths bestowed upon me by the Almighty, reading for pleasure is most definitely not one.  Yet I was very eager to read BP’s story.  Had I picked up this manuscript bearing no prior knowledge of the identity of the author, I am convinced that I would have easily guessed the work to be that of BP.  The nostalgic journey  travelled by the author is so reminiscent of the characteristic “say it as it” trait that  I admired in BP through the years that we’ve been friends.  “When The Chalk Is Down”, at the superficial level, tells the story of the challenges, frustrations, trials and tribulations of a previously disadvantaged boy beating all odds to succeed in many more ways than one.  However BPs story is much more than just that – to me, it is a reflection of the lives of many, many people who travelled a similar path but either never took the time to reflect on it or feel it too demeaning to go back to their roots which is “out of sync” with their present standing, circle of association and stature.  For this I salute the absolute sincerity and ingenuity with which BP engages his past without the airs and graces and learnt sophistication that tend to creep in with material success.  This story is so loaded with issues that so many of us can so easily identify with.  Thanks to BP for placing in perspective the commitment of the many educators who tried, each in their own little way, to make a difference at Foresthaven Secondary , and also for rekindling the fond memories of days gone by.

The story of ‘the house in Buffelsdale’ highlights, for me, a pertinent observation: it traces the failure of our government’s delivery structures on the ground right from the apartheid era well into the era of our hard earned democracy.  It seems that the one thing that many officials did and continue to do best, is to deny the very people they are paid to serve any chance of dignity.  The political freedom was won but the eternal struggle of the poorest of the poor continues…at least BP has found closure.

To BP and his family, my sincerest congratulations and best wishes for the publication of your story.  May it reach great heights.

Though many things have changed for the better over the years , it would appear that some things just remained the same: I skimmed through an article recently about a study conducted in schools , in which the researcher found that the “oppressive – know –it –all ” mentality of a number of school managers in the ex – HOD schools in areas like Phoenix, which was central to one of the themes in BP’s story , still persist with many level one educators still being denied proper access to documents that may empower them against naïve submissiveness to the whims and caprices of their principals some of whom may be abusing their authority to enjoy their principalship as a period of ‘on duty’ retirement.  It appears that many teachers in these schools are still being flogged with copious volumes of administrative work, relief teaching and other similar duties which relegate quality delivery in the classroom to the bottom of the rung of duties.