The Birth and death of a High school

 

The reason for this post is to put down in writing the issues that faced Imhoff waldorf High school that lasted precisely 8 years and then died prematurely, still in its youth. I was involved from long before its inception to almost its end. I wish to clarify things that seemed to have got lost along the way, and examine what led to its untimely end.Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt along the way.

 

THE SITUATION BEFORE THE HIGH SCHOOL

Imhoff Waldorf High school was born in January 2010, the year my son was in matric. It was conceived 9 months earlier, but in reality it was 6 years from the first pangs of need. I was the midwife and lucky to have had the privilege of bringing this amazing High school to birth. With me have been an incredible team and wonderful students, who have breathed life into it..even to its last breath, which will be on the 8th of December. We are already in mourning. How can such a vibrant school die at such a young age, is what we all ask? So hopefully this will put some perspective onto a brave endeavor.

I was connected to Imhoff through my son, being in the pioneering days of Imhoff primary school from 1989. My son went through the primary school. I loved the school. Its values were good. It strove to be inclusive and diverse, and costs were affordable to middle class people like myself but also had a strong sponsorship programme so that those of lesser means could attend. I was on the board at the time the idea was put forward in 2004. It was already too late for my son.

At that time there were only one and a half Waldorf High schools (Micheal Oak only went up to class 10, and had done so for 20 years. Somehow they got stuck there). It was becoming difficult to get Imhoff’s children into either one of these high schools, as demand was increasing from all the Waldorf primary schools in Cape Town area (There were 7 other primary schools that did not have high schools at the time). A survey was done by Dassenburg school,  that showed that by 2010 there would be a huge demand for Waldorf High schools. Both existing High schools involved travel for Imhoff parents and were not as affordable. So the question was asked: How can we provide Waldorf High schooling for our children at Imhoff that would be affordable and convenient.

All the small schools met with the Federation to thrash out the problem. We suggested that Constantia waldorf school, which was the biggest school, double stream in order to accommodate this demand. We suggested Michael oak complete its High school. because, the fact that it ended in class 10, put pressure on Constantia to accommodate them in class 11, so didn’t really solve the problem of creating space for High school children. Both ideas  were turned down, as neither school wanted to expand at that stage, and it was suggested that each school should solve its own problems.

A further issue was that Imhoff had been wanting to buy land for a number of years. Land was expensive in the area and hard to come by. A financial survey done in 2004 showed that the only way the school could afford to buy land and build a school was to have a High school, as the numbers were needed to increase the turnover of the school.

Also, it was found that Imhoff had a drop off of students in Class 6 and 7.  Fishoek had a local government middle school, and if students were not enrolled at an early stage, they would not get into Fishoek High school later, especially as Imhoff’s Kommetjie and Scarborough residents were outside the Fishoek zone. There was already high demand for Fishoek High school from Sun Valley primary, as they at that stage did not have a High school either. So upper primary classes would be small where parents sent their children to Fishoek to get in there before the grade 8 “rush”. As a result of all these factors, Imhoff decided it needed to start a High school also to help fill the upper primary classes. At that stage, there was no teachers willing to take the step, so it remained in limbo. In the meantime, Stellenbosch Waldorf school decided that they were not going to wait. They started their High school in 2008. I was involved in that, and saw that it just needed the step to be taken. Once started, it would carry its own energy.

Now starting a High school is easier said than done. Despite the need, both parents and children were not keen to be the first class to go up. You may ask why. Its a complex issue, but one of the key problems is that teenagers need older teenagers and a big school idea, especially those from Imhoff, as it is a small school as it is. Teenagers need a wider social net and everything that opens and shuts, so they would resist just being a small class with nothing except a teacher or two.

So we did a survey on the class 7’s of 2009 to see how many would be interested in the High school. A number were interested but not committed, and some were definitely keen. Our eye was on the then class 5’s who were all very keen to be part of pioneering a High school, and were a large class determined to stay together. By then the school was negotiating buying land and drawing up plans with an architect, despite not having money to do so. Now, even if we were eyeing class 5 for the High school, we needed the wider social net for them to feel happy to be there. It was kind of a catch 22 situation. So we decided to start the High school, even although it may be small to begin with. We only needed one classroom initially. The Board committed to building a temporary classroom on adjacent land that I negotiated from our landlord, together with a desperately needed playing field with GRASS (the current soccer field was a dust bowl). This was actually a huge achievement, as relations with the landlord had been soured over the years.

STARTING WITH VERY LITTLE

 

So we advertised the new high school, despite having nothing in place, and lo and behold, we got a number of applications from both outside and inside Imhoff. They were waiting for a commitment from Imhoff. We got support from Constantia Waldorf school, who agreed to refer students applying there from our catchment area who didnt manage to get in there, as they were at this stage seriously full in class 8. I conducted interviews with only an artists sketch of our prospective school, and no building in sight. When students asked where the High school was situated, I pointed through the trees showing them where the buildings would be. Its amazing what imagination can do. I also negotiated with a local sports teacher to start a sports programme. This was one of the FAQs of prospective students. What sports do you offer? And so we could offer a lot by tying into other schools and local private sports clubs that were already in existence without having to provide the equipment. This sports programme benefited the primary school as well, as they had little in the form of sports at that stage.

The other FAQ was whether we were going to go all the way to matric. We had no idea, but we had to make that commitment to do everything in our power to make it happen. Without that, we would not have got the commitment from the parents that was needed. It was a crucial issue that led to this class going all the way to matric and keeping our High school strong.

GETTING GOING

Then Our landlord offered us a house close by. It had been used by Mr Opperman who was the farm manager and who died mid year.  Originally he had converted what were a series of chicken runs into a house. So the rooms were small. With the advice of a local engineer, we could convert it into 2 classrooms and a kitchen at the grand price of R5000! And so we had our new High school..just far enough away to be separate from the primary school, with a grass field in between. By then we had 13 students definitely committed and two teachers. One full and one part time, myself and Alexandra James Gets. She was the English, drama teacher, and I was the Maths, science and biology teacher..not to mention art, crafts, gardening, even woodwork and general dogsbody on the Board and the college. We also borrowed teachers from Constantia, swapping time with myself when I was not teaching at Imhoff. We ran a full on Waldorf curriculum using experienced teachers like Ed Fox and Howard Dobson on a part time basis.  Der Freunde donated 10 000 for equipment, and we stretched that money very far, buying sewing machines and science equipment.. science benches that could be wheeled in and out. The school bought new desks and chairs and a blackboard. It was seen as an investment into our future permanent school. Howard Dobson became our Federation mentor (a Federation requirement to be a waldorf school), and we ran teacher training sessions which we opened up to our parent body to help cover costs and prepare future teachers that we would need over time.

Janis came a bit later to teach IsiXhosa, and we had Maike teaching eurhythmy to students who had never done eurythmy before.  We had a great group of students who were fully prepared to pioneer the High school.

It was important for the High school to not draw on the primary school financially, and at the end of the year, we were the only area of the school to actually make a profit..a small one, but nevertheless, the viability was there.

There were many problems, which is what is expected when you are dealing with the vulnerable teenage years, but we solved them as we went. It was like rowing a boat on choppy waters. What kept us afloat and excited was faith and creative thinking. What we were NOT doing, was going backwards. We never faulted in looking forwards to a long future even though we did not have a plan beyond class 9. Nobody knew that of course, other than the inner circle of the college. I never doubted that we would find a solution.

THE NEXT YEAR

So, our next group of class 8’s numbered 10 and came from a class that had a rocky time in primary school. They had had 3 teachers in primary school, which is unusual, normally they only have one. What started as a large class of close on 30 in class 1, ended in 10 in class 7.  We took in some children from outside Imhoff and ended with 15. One of the problems of taking on people who had no Waldorf education, is that they were often struggling, with parents desperate to find a solution.  This second class had some social issues, with strong-minded students who resisted getting on with others. So at the end of class 8 we lost 5. After that, it remained a small class, despite new people coming. The pioneer class, however grew in strength and number. Ulric, an ex- Waldorf student himself, joined us to offer Woodwork and metalwork

CLASS 10

The question then arose about offering class 10. The college then questioned for the first time whether the High school could continue up. For me, this was a shock, as I thought that everyone was behind the High school, to find it was not so. I was the only High school member on the college at that stage. At this point the High school felt unsupported by the primary and the rest of the school back tracked on building any new classrooms. The High school had already expanded the crafts into a second building nearby, courtesy of our landlord. Yes, we were paying for it, but it was all covered by fees.

We set out in search of a solution deciding to separate the High school from the primary. We found a place in Noordhoek that used to be a school and so had education status. It was more expensive, but then we had more students and could still cover the costs. The school bought desks, chairs and we received some donations of boards from Michael oak, but essentially the equipment we had bought two years before using the Freunde donation stretched enough.

CLASS 11

Again, when we had to decide for class 11, although we had the space, the college and board questioned us going ahead. Again we had to convince them that it was worth it. This took a Big circle and added to our stress and there was a sense that the High school was still not supported by the rest of the school, especially now we were on separate campuses.  This was shown in other ways, and I think this was where a rift developed. We had a new board made of mostly Primary school parents. All we actually needed then was a eurythmy room, which we found within walking distance, thanks to a parent who ran a yoga studio there.

At this stage, the High school was the only part of the school that was registered with the department of Education. We were still covering costs, but it was then decided to charge the High school an admin fee. Nevertheless, we still covered expenses which included much higher rent. By this time we had a secretary, two full time teachers, the rest drawn from our parent body mostly and on various percentages depending on their teaching load. But it was vibrant and exciting. Charisse came in to teach drama and English when Alexandra left, and Tracey taught art. Matthew and Kath came in to teach class 8 and 9 We landed with a difficult class 8 class with some extremely naughty students, who again came from a primary school class that had 3 different teachers, and was not very cohesive socially.

By this stage, Michael Oak had decided to continue its High school into class 11. Also Sun Valley primary decided to open their very expensive private school to the general public with government support. Sandy Dowling, a parent had also started a small home school offering the cambridge matric. This drew some of our prospective students away from us.  (Stellenbosch, which was quite far out and so didnt really affect us, were one step ahead of us, offering class 12.)

Nevertheless, our classes were essentially full for our spaces, (which were quite small and could accommodate only 20 students in each classroom.)

CLASS 12SAMSUNG

20140315_093850.jpgOur first Parsival Journey from Cape Point to Table Mountain. Our original group in class 11.

Now we had to decide on class 12. Our landlord was trying to sell the property we were on,  but it was too expensive for what it was and besides we didnt have the money, as the school was still negotiating to buy land at Imhoff to build on. It was also really too small.

At this stage, Solole nature reserve, which had gone bankrupt became available to rent, via a connection of a parent, Clive.  It had been bought by the council who were prepared to let it out at a good rate while they put plans in for a much needed fire station. We had to fix it up, as it had been vandalised quite extensively and the thatch needed repairing. Thus far we had spent every December holiday since 2010, either moving the school or doing repairs, so this was nothing new.

It was a beautiful space and big enough to house a full High school…but….we had it for 3 years only. Other plans were in the offing, however. A banker friend of Clives had offered to put up the money to buy the land for the primary school, with a proviso that they buy a portion for themselves. They would then build a high school there that they would rent to Imhoff High school, but also run their own post school education classes. It all seemed ideal.

MATRIC
By then we had our first matric class. We were registered to offer matric, by no mean feat, classes were running. We had 5 full time teachers, being joined by Maggie, Irene, Lorna and Carol Drew. Also Sandise very capably took on the Eurythmy..never an easy thing in the High school. We had a few high school parents on the Board, Irene joined the college,  It looked like nothing could go wrong, wrong wrong…

How wrong can you be.

By then I was stressed and exhausted. I felt that I was always defending the High school to a group of naysayers on Board and college. Much as words were said that denied that, the reality was that the Board was made of Executive types with primary school children who had little sense for the High school. I needed a sabbatical and to decide my own future. I was not getting any younger. I do believe teaching has a time limit. Janis and Tracey had joined the college and Janis the board at that stage. We also had two high school parents there. Our great supporter at the board was Clive. Part of my reason for leaving for sabbatical was to let the school firm up its feet.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT
While I was away, a few tragedies happened: Firstly, Amani, a popular class 8 student, was tragically killed. After this his class dissipated somewhat. Secondly, but what was crucial, I think, is that Clive left the board. It was here that the banker,  who was to build our High school felt, correctly I think, that Imhoff was not committed enough to the High school endeavour.  So Imhoff Campus withdrew from the arrangement to build the High school.  Thirdly, the Imhoff board then decided to rather build the High school on the primary land, despite having no means to do so.

Fourthly, after the first matric, which was very successful, the college and board decided not to offer matric to the second group, as the class was too small to offer choices (there were 10 students, as there were in the beginning). Fifthly, and crucially, this decision was taken without consultation of the teachers or the parents to find a way of compromising, and so this sent shock waves through the school. I bumped into very irate parents on my return from sabbatical, who were not consulted.

After this confidence was leaking and so students from lower down also withdrew. Stopping a process in this way would inevitably bring results further down. This was known by High school teachers, but they were again not consulted. No alternatives were given except to send the students to Michael Oak, which was now offering matric.  It was forgotten that one of the reasons why Michael Oak decided to go further in their High school was because they lost students after class 9, where they left to go to other High schools that offered matric. Parents need to know there is an end point. This fact of the backlash further down was not seen by the college or board, as they were not involved in the everyday High school.

The decision that was taken from a financial savings perspective brought further financial restrictions through lack of foresight.

At a very late stage the board and college then put the High school on notice to close due to a deficit in the region of 100 000, mainly created by sponsored students who had no sponsors. The High school teachers then took it into their own hands to raise funds for the sponsored students in order to save the school. (There are dedicated people who generally do this, but for some reason sponsorship money was not allocated to the High school). This was already too late, and despite raising the deficit, the college and board decided to close the upper High school, again without consultation. They would build 3 classrooms for classes 8, 9 and 10 on the new land they had bought, ( although they still have to pay for it, and had no money to build). This already would shrink the school and thus lose the greater social atmosphere vital to a high school.

As a result of these cutbacks, new students for 2018 did not materialise by September, naturally enough, through the fact of the cancelling of the upper classes. Although this was very early to decide (many students applied later than this in previous years, even up to December), the board and college then decided to close the entire High school, again without consultation. Teachers were given severance notices, and class 11 was sent to Constantia Waldorf school for the final term. 15 students were to be interviewed, but they were told not to go ahead.

HOW TO KILL A HIGH SCHOOL

A sadness now descends on the dissipated high school, and a confusion as to what actually happened, who made the decisions, how and why. Only 3 members remain on the board and a key primary school teacher has resigned prematurely. A Waldorf school normally prides itself in circle management. No decision is made without the players involved in the decision. All big decisions were made at “Big Circle” meetings. This involved relevant parents and teachers and not just Board and College.

The other question is why were the High school notified of the financial situation at such a late stage to make gathering the funds so difficult? and further, why was the decision to close the entire High school so soon before the end of the year, even although there were 15 ppeople who had applied for class 8? one of the bigger questions for me was why did the school stop offering matric without trying to find a compromise with the parents and students? Waldorf schoosl have offered matric with far less students than this. This is what set the entire house of cards tumbling. The main question again and again is why were decisions taken without consultation with the people involved. This is not how Waldorf schools operate.

The question still remains as to how the primary school is going to afford to build and pay off its large loan with only a primary school. The fact remains that upper classes in the primary school will become depleted as they were before when there was no High school. What was to be the High school, has now been sold to a Montessori school in direct competition, and next door to Imhoff. (Strangely enough they feel quite confident of starting their own High school, with less students as what was at Imhoff High school.)

I also wonder that if it was the primary school leaking, would they have saved the high school and closed the primary? It makes you consider what is called support. I can think of many things that could have been done and would have been done if it was the primary school in this situation. I remain worried for the future also of the primary school. Its not only the foolish decision that was the problem, it was how it was done. If everyone had been consulted, new solutions could have been found. Am I wrong?

 

 

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Trees beautiful trees.

After visiting England, where the trees are so huge and beautiful,

and I became so fascinated with them, it has been great to see so many beautiful trees in KwazuluNatal. I can see why Durban was a favoured colonisation place for Brits. Amazing trees are everywhere here and have the space to grow to their fullest extent. There is nothing like a fully stretched out tree even in an industrial area.20170610_090512

In Durban luckily the alien police have not attacked the trees that line the streets, and so you will find a host of the best trees from around the world. In this HOT climate you can always find cool parking. The trees take precedence in the street, as you can see here, 20170111_103209and it has been amazing to see different trees blossoming at different times of the year.   At the moment all the coral trees are blossoming their red flowers. Its red season.

A little while ago it was orange with these amazing trees from Madagascar flowering along the streets.

Previous to that was these red flowering wide spreading trees. The red flowers made a crown on top.20170118_111834

On many of my walks, next to the houses are these unexpected fairy glades.

Of course my favourite place is the Durban botanical gardens. What I like most is that it is FREE to go in at any time, unlike the fee at Kirstenbosch. Its not that I resent the fee at Kirstenbosch..which is actually cheap compared to England where I paid R500 for a much lesser experience! (see previous post on the Eden project ..okay you can use your ticket for a year, but have no option for a once off visit.) The trees here are so exotic! This was a repository of all the corners of the Empire, a mini Kew gardens.

The intention behind the gardens was not  positive, as most colonial enterprises, and many plants were “stolen” in order to create a sort of “seed bank”, as medicine was essentially herbal at the time. Many of the trees come from India and Madagascar and further east. But they have been allowed to grow and grow and are stunning! I have been going back often to visit the changes over the seasons.

The first trees that really struck me were these cannonball trees. Mainly because the heady scent of the exotic flowers were so strong, I had to stop. I couldnt see the cannonballs but later in the year I found them in the place of the flowers.

There are simply HUGE banyan trees. (The ones here are small compared to ones in India that spread over 2 acres and people even make houses inside them)  These are fig type trees that spread sideways with roots that drip down from the branches. They are grown for good luck and are a symbol of immortality.

Banyan trees are thought to have spiritual significance, with the Lord Shiva being the branches (he has many arms), the Lord Vishnu the bark of the tree, and the Lord Brahma, the great God,  the large powerful roots of the tree. They have been used medicinally for centuries.

This is the legendary Bodi tree that the Lord Buddha sat under meditating to find enlightenment

There are other wild fig species with incredible trunks.

The palms are truly majestic 20170410_095224and there are these ancient Woods and many cycads that were brought here a few hundred years ago and are also huge.

There is a fern garden with magical tree ferns  and ponds with lotus flowers,

lots of water birds and a couple of pelicans

and a special grotto with exquisite orchids.

My all time favourite are still fever trees, with their distinctive yellow trunks.

They were called fever trees because they looked like they had jaundice and were near to malaria areas. The bark is also used to cure fevers .Other medicinal trees are cinnamon (once more valuable than gold) with multiple health benefits including lowering cholesterol and blood sugar , rauvolfia caffra( called african quinine..very important in conquering africa). The bark has been used traditionally for many things including malaria. Look at http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Rauvolfia+caffra for more.

 

A sunken garden is very neat and reminiscent of English country gardens, I say.20170126_105714

New developments are this butterfly park where all the flowers grown are to attract certain butterflies.

As with Kirstenbosch they have music evenings and open air movies. I havent yet been to any, but fully intend to go. People use the gardens for special occasions like birthdays.

There is a lovely old fashioned tea garden run by volunteers with HUGE crumpets and scones and tea.

The best is the monkeys that race through the trees and a host of feral cats that watch you while you drink your tea. 20170204_113144

 

Why I am studying Homoeopathy

One of the students I am studying with asked me what I would study if I could choose anything I wanted to. I found that question strange, but easy to answer. I would be studying Homoeopathy of course. They then went on to ask that if I had done conventional medicine, what would I be doing now, and I said that I would be studying Homoeopathy or probably have done it long ago.

I was not brought up with homoeopathy. Not at all! My mother was a nurse who fed us every form of conventional medicine. She loved hospitals and doctors. My sister was essentially drip fed on anti-histamines, that kept her sleepy for most of her young life. We had all the possible vaccinations, antibiotics with every case. We had dental checkups and horrendous fillings every six months. (Most of my natural teeth were eaten away by these).  I was fascinated by pathology and spent 2 years working in a pathology laboratory, which wakened my interest in biology and I went on to get a degree in zoology and microbiology.

I moved into the country in Cape Town, surrounded by the most magnificent plant life. What was special about these plants was that there were so many that were medicinal. As a hobby, I would collect plants and after identifying them, look up their medicinal properties. We also had a friend who was an ethnobotanist and also a medical doctor. he was a bit wacky and would experiment on himself..particularly hallucinogenic plants. He fostered an interest in the medicinal plants…and mushrooms around our rural home.  I was into hunting and gathering and we would have meals with local herbs and mushrooms. But I always had this question as to what makes a herb medicinal or edible or poisonous.20160918_115758.jpg

As a Biology teacher in a Waldorf school,I was expected to teach a main lesson on plants. My biology lessons at my own school (and in most government schools) have much to be desired .I could see NO connection to the plant kingdom then and we learned just lots of names and categories, and osmosis and capillarity and found the structure terribly boring..”you mean there are no organs inside?” As a Waldorf teacher, my challenge was to inspire my student to find a connection, and so I could only teach it the way I had found my own love of plants..through medicinal plants.DSC07556.JPG

As a Waldorf teacher, your challenge is to scaffold a lesson so that it leads the students into questioning things as opposed to delivering facts. I could have delivered a whole lot of facts around plants, but I then researched the path of herbal medicine, and found it completely fascinating. Bu it also opened up a ton of questions.. like how did people know what was medicinal? Why are plants medicinal? Why do we talk about plants as if all they do is grow? What exactly is their connection with us? And so the big journey began.

In my own life, besides using a few well known wild plants for tea, I still used Allopathic medicine.  The change came with my own child. After six doses of antibiotics with a recurring middle ear infection, I went to a homeopath and he prescribed one medication which cured him almost instantly and he never went on to get a middle ear infection again. This hyped up my interest and I never went to a conventional doctor again other than for a couple of broken limbs. I began to research Homoeopathy and why it was different to herbal medicine and structured my main lessons around these researches. I bought my own remedies and self medicated, discovered my own constitutional remedies. I investigated Anthroposophical medicine and did two fascinating courses with Michaela Glockler. As a Waldorf teacher I had a fairly solid background in Anthroposophy and had read many Steiner books and attended many conferences and courses..more with a focus on education. But my desire had been lit to go deeper into the healing arts.

When my son left home, I decided  that this was a prime opportunity to change my career once more (I have had 5 careers, whats one more?). There were lots of circle arguments in my head. I was teaching in a school I loved and had helped to build. I was still needed in my role. I would have to move to Durban. (I loved Cape Town). It was a five year course. (I was not young anymore). I would have to go back to first year (intellectually I needed a challenge..I was busy with a masters in Education. Do I finish this first? What for?). I could see that based on many older teachers I knew, that teaching had a sell by date..and I was reaching it. I found it very heart wrenching to see excellent teachers being sidelined for the younger ones and then not knowing what they should do next. I could see myself become crabby and forgetting names and repeating my life story to sweet teens too polite to tell you to shut up.

I finally took a year off to think without distractions and to slowly extricate myself from my obligations at the school. I spent the year in England volunteer working essentially as a gardener in a college for autistic teenagers amongst the most amazing plants, which I could watch daily unfolding, while also learning a lot about radical education amongst damaged teens. It was run on Biodynamic lines and I learnt a lot about that side of Anthroposophy too. (See my previous posts). I spent my time observing and photographing and drawing medicinal and poisonous plants at various stages of development. At the same time I researched their healing properties from a homoeopathic and herbal point of view. I have not posted any of this up yet, but I think it is time to do so.

And so, here I am. In Durban studying Homoeopathy amongst a group of first years just out of school. (They only accept one mature student per year).20170525_084600.jpg Thus far it has more than met my expectations. At the moment it is like any other medical course, with extensive gross  anatomy with dissection and physiology, chemistry and physics (my nightmare come true). I have a little cottage at the back of someones garden and can just see the sea. There is a library FULL of homoeopathic and herbal books including on anthroposophical medicine. I have got credit for 2 subjects from my BSc and so I use this time to peruse these books and am trying to find the key that links these two great studies. I will have to do a thesis in my 5th year, and I feel this will be the direction I would like to take. So happy me!

 

Driving in Durban

One of the things that shock you the most in Durban is the driving, especially if you come from generally polite Cape Town and having spent a year in ultra-polite England. (although their motorways are a lot like Durban)

Here its like everyone is on steroids the minute they enter the road system. Everone hoots all the time for every misdemeaner, like taking one second to take off at the robot, or DARING to switch lanes even if you have signalled and checked for cars..there is always another racing into your bum.

Cars pass both left and right no matter what you do. They are always going the fastest they can, and trying to get ahead of the person in front no matter who they are and even if ,or especially if, cars are piled in front. Cutting across three or four lanes vertically is quite normal, and simply stopping in ANY lane by putting on their hazard lights is considered sufficient excuse.

I tried driving in the left lane, but discovered that, since there is no yellow line, as in other south african cities, the left lane IS the yellow line. After some close shaves in cars stopping without warning right in front of me, and lanes suddenly leaving the motorway, I decided to try the second lane. This is infinitey safer, but beware as the left lane then becomes the passing lane as well as the right. It feels a bit like a kyalami race track.

Most people blame the taxis, and they certainly are guilty of all the misdemeaners expressed above..the worst one being HOOTING..mainly for custom. I think all taxis need a special sound for custom so that they dont use their general hooters, as after a while you begin to switch off to all hooters. This is a dangerous thing to do. In England it is a finable offence to hoot for any other reason than an emergency so you rarely hear hooters. (British people are also solaw abiding mainly because their fines are HUGE, and you get fined more if you protest in court..a bit of a police state,I would say).

Anyway, I forgive all taxis because every taxi takes ten cars off the road. Imagine how many cars there would be if everyone in a taxi had a car? So I always am grateful and allow taxis their idiosynchronicities. Also, I have used them occasionally and they are far and away the best form of transport in South Africa. they are fast and efficient, air conditioned (often), not overcrowded, as most people think and will go anywhere and stop anywhere..unlike buses. They are also cheap for what you get.

I put the blame on the roads in Durban. The fact that there is no yellow lane ensures that the inner lane is a disaster area. Also, the road markings are bad, and you willsuddenly find that you are supposed to be in a right lane even altough you are going left off a highway. Also there are many offramps and roads that come into an intersection at an angle to meet a robot that is both red and green! Yes. unless you know the road, you dont now if you are supposed to stop or go or which robot slightly angled you should obey. Notice the robots in the photo below.20170406_064741

I just about killed myself taking this photo.

Durban has a glut of one way streets. Despite this, I must say they work well. I have rarely sat in traffic for long. The robots seem quite co-ordinated as a result, so despite theis photo, the traffic is not bad compared to other cities,its just that you have to constantly be vigilant that someone is not going to stop or turn in front of you suddenly.

More usual is HUGE trucks. As Durban is an industrial city, huge trucks are everywhere, and they dont drive slowly either..so its quite common to meet them in The right lane speeding with 10 new cars on their platforms or a number of containers. Can be quite fightening when they are on either side.

Durban also has high and huge highways, mainly because they ave to cater for high and huge trucks. I have not yet managed to get a photo of the astounding wall paintings on the N3 by graffiti artist Faith 47. I will post them up when I do. 20170327_162024There is an amazing vibe at the taxi and bus terminus, and I deliberately drive through just for a bit of it even though I risk my life getting around the thousands of taxis. the photo above is of the taxi rank area. There is loud music with a real African vibe and lots of market stalls selling everything from muti to plastic. 20170327_161938

I have been trying to get photos of the many white beggars in Durban. The only other place I have seen so many white beggars is in England. I’ve been told its because the weather is good that the Joburg beggars migrate to Durban, and back to Joburg in summer where the pickings are richer. I have an aversion to giving money to a white beggar, especially if they are young and fit. This is because I know they have been given every opportunity to not be on the street and have not taken them. (My bit of racism..sorry)

The contrasts of colonial Durban

Having spent a year in England, I was primed for the colonial side of Durban. The colonial street names are on their way out as we encounter double barreled street names like Solomon Maglangu rather than singular names such as Moore road. I have no idea who Edwin Swales is so I am happy to see him go.  I am quite happy to see more african changes. But there is still places like Victoria embankment and Queensborough. In fact the colonial side of Durban is very difficult to erase.
So I went to visit the colonial centre of Durban, and little England it is, from the sweet little hanging baskets (the pay and display parking also very reminiscent of olde England),

to the surprisingly undamaged royal statues and arches.

This is the city hall20170413_142008

Identified as South African from the cycads in front. (could be India from the palms).

In this precinct there are, as in all of Durban, the most amazing trees tat have just burst fort in flower. The alien police have not got here yet. This comes from Madagascar..looks like a normal tree for most of the year and then suddenly bursts into these amazing inflorescences. South African plants are beautiful, but some of these foreigners are utterly stunning.

No this was very british. Its the playhouse theatre

Teir shows are, however very African in style although they may have european origins. Inside it is quite stunning..with some very African artifacts. How about an African style corset?

The other import from Britain was the buying up of tickets and reselling them with an additional 50% price tag, I discovered when I wanted to see Handels Messiah over Easter. Someone called Zee had bought “too many tickets”. Strangely she hadnt even paid for them yet…sounds like some inside job too.

Open a space, and Africa will fill it. And so I wandered into a vibrant flea market

with some stunning shweshwe clothing (not shown here) and beadwork.

There were amazing fever trees..my favourite African tree..I love the colour of their trunks and the generous spread of their canopies.20170413_144122

There were also relics of the colonial and apartheid masters juxtaposed between the lightness of the market.20170413_144152

Open spaces also mean busking and this was a play with the audience. Difference to Blighty..less white skin thats all.20170413_143307

An odd and largely unnoticed sculpture was this Eduardo Villa’s mother and child. His sculptures appear in odd places in Sout Africa, and is a comment on te soft roundness of Africa compared to the hard sharpness of Western intellect. An unsung ant-Western commentator.20170413_142710

Ten I walked through the alleys to the Docks and unexpectedly in a dark narrow alley, I found this:

Rather taken over by a huge concrete monstrosity.

Durban has enormously diverse architecture..none of it all together but interspersed with hideous uncared for blocks. below is a beautiful art Deco building next to this pink thing.

This is on prime estate overlooking the harbour. Durban has these orphans needing paint and love but some may be too awful to do anything about. This is the view from these buildings.

And so I drove home, passing these iconic (art deco?) warehouses that sets the imagination off when you consider that they could be filled to the brim with sugar. 20170413_152322

Strange and lovely things at DUT

There are the most majestic trees and plants at DUT that we take for granted. What greets you in the morning if you are not rushing and take the time to look up is this most beautiful HUGE rubber tree20170221_072048.jpg

This provides the lunchtime shade near the food hub.

20170201_122339.jpgEverywhere are these fever trees and two huge ones greet you as you enter the main car park. The inevitable stralitzias and giant stralitzias,so much part of this area:20170201_123456.jpg

and then there are precious cycads just casually posing here and there.20170213_074203.jpg

this building has been built around the tree.

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And then there are strange statues like this one

these were surveying students surveying the grounds..something we do at Waldorf schools with the lecturers looking on and relaxing.

And unexpectedly these amazing lilies:20170223_112506

Odd things are these very effective brooms that come free from the palm trees that are everywhere. They sweep a lot at a time.20170224_071245

and then a quirky name on a take away:20170224_070909

And then I discovered a student hub:20170301_080312

Luckily, as I look older I am not questioned when I enter the staff canteen that serves the best coffee and really cheap and delicious and healthy meals. The students have to deal with instant ricoffee and real junk food (mostly vetkoek) and snacks but luckily tempered with fresh fruit.

And something unusual we enjoyed doing was painting each other to indicate the various muscles in the body. We had to know the names, origins and insertions of the major ones and teach it to each other.

Further to the course in Homoeopathy

Much of the course in first year is laying foundations in Science and Anatomy and Physiology as experienced by medical students. There are somethings I would like to change but I am withholding judgement as I am looking from a perspective of someone who has a science degree. We do basic chemistry that I find too basic and theoretical, and physics that I find too orientated to engineers driving cars although, having tried to avoid physics in my previous degree, I am enjoying the challenge, more from a mathematical perspective.20170326_100913.jpg

I am beginning to have sympathy for my matric students who chose science. Luckily my many years of teaching maths has made me very adept at manipulating it. also some things we literately did 4 times over in different subjects..this is measurement, significant figures, using SI units and rounding off. This needs more co-ordination within subjects. Another subject I find too basic is Biological principles, as most students will have done these in life Sciences at school. (although there are some delvings into microbiology) but I dont think it has been thought through sufficiently to be of value.

The subjects that are excellent are Anatomy, Histology and Physiology. There is a lot of detail and it is done in a very physical scientific way which may seem alien to homoeopathy that is more instinctive and artistic and appears unscientific, but, as with Steiner, I feel that one has to move through science to the artistic Goethean thinking. luckily I have a background in anthroposophy, and so, as we go, I form my own interpretations using the threefold method, polarities and fivefold influences of the etheric. also the animal characterisations of the organs.

The library has wonderful books, including some Steiner and Anthroposophical books that I have been reading. I have done two courses on Anthroposophical medicine..the etheric and the astral, and this has helped me to determine these influences. There is another course in October outside Cape Town that I want to attend, but my budget is quite tight and I will have to fit it in to my study leave and be back..which means additional cost for airfare.

I am living on my inheritence..so I see this as a gift from my parents and an uncle and an investment in myself. There is not enough time to work at present, but perhaps in subsequent years I will be able to adjust my time.

Also at the same time I am doing my own self study on the homoeopathic plants. Samuel Hahnemann did not put much score on the doctrine of signatures in plant morphology but only in symptoms, as he found it more rational..and it certainly is, but having been a teacher of Botany and being interested in medicinal plants for years, I am investigating their form from a Goethean perspective and relating it to their healing capacities. homoeopathy uses Like cures like in symptomology, so I am looking at the potentising effects and reversing the allopathic uses, as it seems that Homoeopathic remedies undergo a reversal in their effect when potentised. In subsequent blogs I will publish my findings. Paracelsus followed this principle.

We are also receiving lectures on the principles of Homoeopathy, which we really enjoy and do far too little of at present. It just whets the appetite. Also we are doing some basic diagnosing methods and observation of surface anatomy by a dynamic woman.

Or highlight of the week is the Human dissection, and what has impressed me is the departments commitment to provide this skill despite difficulties in obtaining bodies, but also the reverence with which they deal with it. We all attended a dedication ceremony where we acknowledged the gift of the body and the life that lived it. Our group always says thank you in entering the dissection room and when leaving. We also signed a abbreviated Hippocratic oath.20170301_084948.jpg

The slides behind show an acknowledgement of the cadaver from birth to death likening it to a sunflower seed from seed to field of flowers presented by our wonderful Histology and physiology lecturer.

This is our equally wonderful and talented anatomy lecturer introducing a pastor who is an ex-student, who dedicated the bodies.

Another lecture that is interesting for me is called Personal and professional development, where we discuss deeper issues like “who am I” and “why am I here” and have to keep a personal journal. This appears to have been introduced this year as compulsory for ALL students. I have a suspicion that this subject was introduced in order to accomodate dissent, as previous demonstrations have been damaging. (possibly recommended by Jonathan Jansen who had to deal with more extreme cases of racial dissent in a conservative city) It certainly teaches respect for others simply through the humanising of the subject..ie you are a human first and a student second.

I have mentioned the support at DUT before, but it really is tangible here. DUT, being such a mishmash of cultures and creeds could, and maybe has been a hotbed of dissent. But these opportunities allow us to interact with each other as human beings and this diffuses dissension, as we see each others struggles.20170224_105123