When I arrived at that school, it seemed like a great place to be: It seemed like an open-minded
community, and a break from the racism we usually experience in Pretoria.
I noticed that as long as you, a Black person, aren't seen as a threat to white local hires, your
stay at the school will be a good one. While my stay was “good”, I started experiencing
aggressions that weren’t so micro. White locals would deliberately ignore me and pretend like I
didn’t exist. That came in the form of not being greeted back in the hallways, them walking into a
room I was in and proceeding to greet their fellow white person and pretend like I wasn’t in the
room, to speaking in their language to keep me off conversations, but quickly switching to
English as soon as an international hire joins the group.
As each year passed, the aggressions grew bolder. I was told that I’m at that school only
because of the color of my skin, that I was an affirmative action hire and would never lose my
job. Comments about black people not being able to manage anything, us needing white people
to save us.
More black locals joined the school, but would exit within a year. We were all exhausted from
the treatment we were receiving. It always felt like I had to leave myself at the gate of the school
when entering and assume someone that was palatable by the institution. While everyone
would talk about their personal lives and where they are from, I didn’t feel like I could, as I
always felt as insignificant as how the support staff was regarded. I’d always get curious looks
whenever I would be seen talking to the support staff, because those people were seen to be
there only to serve and not exist to do anything else.
I had isolated myself from the community so much that I knew there was no way I would ever
function well at that school. My life at that school was very lonely, most of the Black local staff
didn’t interact much with each other, as we all dreaded finding out what the others were
experiencing. We all knew what was happening, but we didn’t want the other to confirm the
treatment we knew they were receiving.
Things got worse after the killing of George Floyd, we all felt that the proverbial yoke on our
necks was getting heavier. The discrimination was more overt and administration continued to
turn a blind eye. The school only responded to allegations laid by former students and even
those efforts were more damaging than anything. Things got worse, some white South African
teachers continued to weaponize their tears instead of taking accountability for their actions.
We’d even compare the school to a local private school (teaching jobs there are mainly
reserved for white people. Black people are only there to serve as support staff or teach native
The best decision I have ever made for myself was to leave that institution. Even in my
departure, the administration made sure to conceal the reason for my resignation. They decided
that me leaving to take care of my family sounded better than me leaving because I had decided
that I had had enough of the discrimination I had endured for years.
If a white teacher fails to see me, a Black adult as human, how are they able to teach students
who look like me and some even sound like me? Continuing to teach at that institution made me
feel like I was betraying myself, as I had told myself that my own children would not be in a
school like that. So how could I continue to be in a place that does not see my value as human
being, and watch young Black children have no choice but to spend the majority of their days
with people who think their people don’t deserve to share the same space as them?
My dream as a Black teacher is for us to not be reduced to fighting for a place at a table that
was not built for us, but that international schools would dismantle their current table by
revisiting their hiring practices, and start building a table that is big enough and designed for
I worked for a very brief time because I always felt left out and isolated.
Much of the communication was done in Afrikaans despite me not understanding the language,
unless our supervisor was around because she didn’t understand it either and she was an
I struggled to find help from my peers, who sometimes ignored me and laughed at me and then
spoke in Afrikaans.
Conversations or topics on colonization and apartheid were often spoken about and my views
were commented on as, “ it was bad, but we need to move on and get along “. Or how it doesn’t
help now that what “your” people are now doing to us.
I was often told that there are no jobs for white people in South Africa and now they are forced
to move out of South Africa because of the reverse apartheid. The insensitive views of my one
peer on how apartheid was better than this democracy was offensive and cruel.
Conversations on how they were close to their family’s house help and found them to be like
their own sisters and how some of their daughters are still their helpers, I found it appalling and
each time I addressed that such should be humiliating because it shows a generational wrong,
as they are progressing in their lives but their very own help is still stuck in the vicious circle of
poverty. They would then reply in Afrikaans and laugh amongst each other.
The challenge was the superiority of the Afrikaans academic staff, and the school accepting it
as a norm. As it perpetuates stereotypes and if not addressed and forced to change would
More white educators were employed as compared to people of colour, we were a total of 5
and the salary was very different even though doing the same job.
My white colleagues used to take leave because their cats were not well but a Black South
African colleague, whose child was unwell was reprimanded for always taking leave.
Sometimes there was terrible weather or the taxis were on strike, the Black colleague who used
public transport would be labeled as always having challenges. But administration and our
white peers failed to be empathetic about the challenges of the trips from the suburbs to the
outer lying townships, especially for a black professionals. The conversations on campus were
that we (Black and white South African) were equal, but the treatment and actions were the total
opposite of what was being preached.
I was excluded in some of the teacher curriculum planning meetings but my white peer who was
at the same level and doing the same job as me was included in the meetings.
Sometimes, my peers failed to acknowledge my presence in the room but acknowledge each
The local white peers strived to isolate, keep information from me but again the international
management lacked the interest, cultural/ historical sensitivity to be able to observe the situation
and engage us about it and lacked empathy for being black in a “white only bus”.
I was looking forward to learning and building relationships at the school. I lasted for a very
short time at the school, and was so happy to be out of that environment but had to be on
anxiety pills due to the level of psychosocial challenges that I encountered at the school.
Empathy is hearing what the other person is saying and allowing them to own their own story.
No one can ever walk in another's shoes because the minute they do, the shoes would take the
shape of their feet and would no longer be the other persons. These experiences were not
necessary to add to my already cruel South African experiences, but it proved to me that
irrespective of our South African song of reconciliation that school is many mountains away and
across the sea from arriving at the point of unity.