Earlier this year, an Endangered Wildlife Critical Rivers Survey team discovered a rare fresh water mussel at Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve. This is the first creature of its kind to be found in the reserve and only the second recording of the species in the Northern Cape. While netting and measuring endangered Clanwilliam sandfish, senior field officer, Bonnie Schumann, spotted the remains of an “otter meal” – an opened mussel with bits of stringy meat still attached. She searched the gravelly river bed and found mussel of a species listed as near threatened. “Fresh water mussels are indicators of water condition,” she said. “The systems they inhabit are sensitive to change. Declining water quality quickly affects these creatures, and, in recent years, pollution has caused a sharp decline in the numbers and distribution of fresh water mussels.” The mussel was identified by Dr Helen James, from Rhodes University, and Professor Corrie Wolmarans, from North West University. Dr Ruhan Slabbert, from the University of Stellenbosch, confirmed identification by DNA sequencing. The EWT and Elizabeth Wakeman Henderson Foundation, is addressing fresh water ecosystem challenges in the Cape Floristic Region and working on the preservation of the Eastern Cape Rocky, a highly endangered fish with a limited distribution area, and the critically endangered Amatola Toad. Only six have been seen over the last 26 years. Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve is a sanctuary for endangered fish species, fresh water mussels and Bokkeveld Sandstone Fynbos.
SECOND PARLIAMENT MEETS
Excitement is building in Cradock as the town readies itself for the 2nd Karoo Parliament which meets at the Vusubuntu Centre on November 6. The programme, which focuses on tourism, wellness and the economy, features top speakers, such as Professor Tim Noakes from the University of Cape Town, who will deliver the keynote address. Destination marketing, sustainable tourism, Karoo cuisine, heritage and the Olive Schreiner Route will form part of in the tourism discussions. Also, on the programme is the revitalisation of small-town central business districts, family support systems and using waste as a resource.
AND THE WINNERS ARE …
Copies of Cooked in the Karoo were won by Hansie Myburgh, from Bellville, and Johann Stadler, of Oudtshoorn. Both long-time Round-up readers were totally delighted to win “such a beautiful, well-compiled and presented book”. Johan says: “It has pride of place on our coffee table simply because we want to brag about the Karoo. We look forward to making the recipes.”
REMAINS OF A TIME-SAVER
In the 1960s a cableway was built from Pisgoedvlakte to Enkeldoorn farm across the Waterkloof Gorge in Baviaanskloof. It was meant to save time and it did. It cut cattle movement time from a full day to minutes. The double cable system, coupled to a winch powered by an idling tractor, was devised by engineer, Andries Blignaut. It included a cage in which livestock, labourers and produce was transported. This great time saver operated until 1970, when the State bought the land.
A DREAM OF CHANGING EDUCATON
Way back in 1841, a 21-year-old Scottish teacher, George Bremner, arrived in South Africa, filled with enthusiasm and dreams of bettering the children’s lives through education. He found flaws in the Government School System and tried to change it without success. Yet, he was key to changes that eventually were made. George, a graduate of Aberdeen University, was recruited as a first-class teacher for the Colony by James Rose Innes, the Cape’s first Superintendent of General of Education. On arrival he was sent to Paarl where he met and married Johanna Wikboom, a Simonstown lass. They had two sons. In 1848 George was promoted to Graaff-Reinet where he became the third teacher to hold the government school post. His predecessor, Rev Thomas Jones Paterson, who had also been recruited in Scotland, had left two years earlier to become a missionary. When George took over the school it had 19 pupils, who had been without a teacher for a year. Graaff-Reinet, an affluent, important, yet racially divided town, was experiencing a boom, but as George soon discovered, it was heavily under the influence of Rev Andrew Murray and some powerful officials. Nevertheless, education was prized. Some boys went to the government school, others to Mr Luckhoff’s church-funded school and coloured boys went to the mission school.
A REMARKABLE TEACHER
George considered himself as “a highly educated gentleman from Europe”. Generally, he was, recognized as an extremely able teacher, states Helen Ludlow of the University of the Witwatersrand, in an article entitled George Bremner, Graaff-Reinet and “A State of Feeling, published in New Contree in January 2012. James Rose Innes considered him a “most efficient teacher”, adding: “He is a well-educated, talented man to whom the ‘boys’ quickly became extremely attached.” Even those with whom George was to clash after he attempted to implement an ambitious new system of state education designed for the whole population, noted that he was clever and accomplished. He particularly impressed school commissioner, Rev William Long, who was also astonished by the performance of George’s pupils. Long hailed George as a kind-hearted man, with a very interesting mode of teaching. “I have listened with great attention to his lessons on physical science. He has a remarkably easy way of teaching the children.” Later Long said there was much in Graaff-Reinet to sadden and disgust, but not this teacher’s performance. Under his influence the school rapidly grew to 150 pupils, but the challenges for one teacher of managing five to 15-year-olds in all stages of progress – from “ABC through mathematics to Latin and French, were immense. Also, the social mix was a challenge. George proposed a better system, which he hoped would develop into a Karoo College, but this was not accepted. Yet he proved to be catalyst for more ambitious education schemes which still lay in the future.
INSPECTION AND EXAMS
Divisional Council members, J F Ziervogel and Ford, inspected the Graaff-Reinet Government School on October 30, 1858. According to the Graaff-Reinet Herald 16 of the 43 boys on the roll were present for this examination. Bad weather was offered as an excuse that prevented more from arriving. The boys knew nothing of the examination, stated the newspaper, until the exercises commenced. “All were asked to read in turn from Chambers’s Introduction to the Sciences. The reading did credit to the ability of the pupils and the teacher. Based on questions asked by the teacher it was evident that the boys understood the subject. Their intelligent replies, and ready illustrations, showed a greater amount of proficiency than the commissioners expected. Two scholars proved to be much more advanced than the rest when examined in trigonometry, algebra (quadratic equations), and Latin. The class was then put through its paces in English grammar and called upon to complete a variety of exercises including conjugation of verbs, application of nouns, pronouns, adjectives and adverbs in a wide variety of sentences. All performed most impressively in speech and in handwriting exercises,” said the Graaff-Reinet Herald. It seemed the school was flourishing, but this was not quite true.
A GIANT KILLED BY DWARFISH NURSES
The Free Government Schooling System, based on a scheme drafted by Sir John Herschel, was set up in 1839, in the wake of the abolition of slavery. It was one of the British government’s first ventures to financing state schooling. Twenty-one schools, free for all races and offering classes at the elementary level, were established across the Colony. Seventeen were “first-class” schools with well-qualified teachers offering the “higher branches” of classics and mathematics to secondary pupils. However, after 18 years the system had not really gotten off the ground. It was in fact failing. Bremner wrote: “Initially, the scheme was welcomed with open arms. Highly-educated gentlemen were recruited in Europe to implement it, but sadly the fact that the schools were free led to their destruction. There was no way to enforce attendance and erratic attendance disrupted learning. Also, Sir John had left the Colony before the scheme became fully operational. “Unfortunately, by the time the schoolmasters arrived, the master-mind was gone,” wrote George. “Implementation was left in the hands of Colonial bunglers, who either could not, or would not, understand the principles of a liberal education system. So, the scheme ended as a giant in the care of “dwarfish nurses” and “pigmy guardians,” stated George.
SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION WITHIN THE SYSTEM
George’s relationship with the Graaff-Reinet community fell into two distinct key periods. He was enthusiastically welcomed, but two years later, in 1850, was faced a defining crisis. His self-reliance and independence led to growing criticism. He refused to be “managed” or “dictated to” by officials and the clergy. This led to severe clashes. The Graaff-Reinet free government school received boys from all levels of society and because George felt that “social and conventional distinctions could not well be respected within the walls of a public schoolroom”, he divided his pupils into classes. Locals objected. They felt this afforded status according to wealth and social standing. George ignored these complaints and coped with the burgeoning numbers of boys of all classes, ages and races for three years, with the assistance of a former pupil from Paarl. However, when this man left to become a land surveyor, the school was plunged into crisis. No replacement could be found. The low stipend was a major obstacle. George issued an impassioned plea for assistance, but this fell on deaf ears, a situation he considered this pivotal to the school’s failure. He resolutely soldiered on. A second key period of dissention arose between1856 and 1858. George felt unsupported and lost interest. He made a foray into journalism and this culminated in an inquiry into the school in May 1858. Thing went from bad to worse and George considered 1859 as the lowest point of his career. The school declined to such an extent that he was left with only three pupils – his own two sons and a coloured boy. His reputation was in tatters and it was recommendation that he be transferred elsewhere. The answers to how all this had happened lay in his constant clashes with officialdom and the clergy coupled to the fact that he had to repair and clean deteriorating school buildings at his own expense.
BEGINNING OF THE END
George rearranged classes and struggled on, but pupils left. “Eventually,” he said, “the school had no air of respectability. It fell into disrepute.” Ziervogel reported a “state of feeling” between George, the mayor, Chairman of the Divisional Council, Members of Parliament and the clergy, particularly after George refused to delay the quarterly exams for a few days when they were out of town. Letters flew back and forth. Rose-Innes’s attempted to patch things up. While not condoning George’s hot-temperedness, he understood his attempt at asserting independence. A capable, autonomous man George did not appreciate men whom he did not respect, tryng to supervise and regulate him. He left. The school closed. Then, perhaps the most famous pupil of his school, the controversial and idealistic Rev T F Burgers, president of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek offered George a job. He invited him to come to teach in the Transvaal. Unable to accept because of poor health, George was nevertheless gratified to have received this measure of recognition from a lad to whom he had given a good grounding in the classics and mathematics.
SOME LADY, SOME HINDRANCE
At the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War hundreds (quite literally) of British socialites flocked to South Africa ostensibly to nurse the wick and wounded. This was a unique feature of this war. Almost all has no training or nursing experience and inevitably they managed to annoy and frustrate medical men and army officials. They were referred to as the Lady Hindrances. High social standing and excellent connections allowed them to become self-appointed critics of the medical services. One, Mrs Rahmah Chamberlain, a passionate imperialist and close friend of Sir Alfred Milner, arrived in South Africa shortly after the death of her husband, the brother of the Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain. She swanned between the Mount Nelson and Vinyard hotels and, with boundless enthusiasm, went to the military hospitals interfering with treatments, feeding patients and distributing gifts, writes Kay de Villiers in Healers, Helpers and Hospitals. She refused to heed any military or medical rules it was impossible to restrain her. Eventually, on the orders of Surgeon General Wilson, a barbed wire fence was erected around the hospital and an armed guard placed at the gate. The ladies also tried to plague the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at Deelfontein, in the Karoo, but their senior surgeon Aflfred Fripp politely turned down their offers of assistance states the British Medical Journal of June 7, 1900. Frippwrote: “there is not a room we could hire for their accommodation within 29 miles of the hospital. This has saved us from the unpleasant duty of telling these willing but unwanted souls that we would much rather have their room than their company.”
NO PRAYERS TODAY, THE BOOK HAS GONE AWAY
Christoffel Brand, Speaker of the House of Assembly from 1854 until his retirement in 1874, was totally fluent in English, but also a staunch upholder of Dutch language rights. One day, towards the end of his tenure, he lost the book containing the opening prayer for the House. This led to an amusing incident, reported in the Standard and Mail, of February 17, 1874. Brand had just taken his seat when he realised, he did not have the precious prayer book. He told the House that despite having read the prayer for ten years he could not remember one word of it. He was asked to say the Lord’s Prayer. “He said he was very sorry, but being Dutch, he had never heard the Lord’s Prayer in English. The Clerk fetched a copy of the New Testament, and handed it to the Speaker, but neither he nor any Member of the House could tell where to find the Lord’s Prayer. The House could not commence proceedings without a prayer, so he was asked to read the Ten Commandments. Only then could the House to proceed.” During Brand’s term as Speaker several efforts to authorize the use of the Dutch language in Parliament were rejected. He also thwarted the Dutch Reformed Church Synod ‘s plans to introduce English into church services.
BEAUFORT WESTERS PLAY A KEY ROLE
Representatives from Beaufort West played key roles in the effort to get Dutch included in Parliamentary sessions. Among them were A.S. le Roex who called upon the Government to publish all the Acts in the Gazette in Dutch, (this motion was defeated) and Mr Luttig, who asked permission to say a few words in Dutch in both houses on the question of the Dutch language. In his thesis, Cape Colonial Parliamentary Publications, 1854-1910, with special reference to documents in the Dutch language, Peter Ralph Coates, states that in 1880 a question on the use of Dutch was placed on the agenda of the triennial Dutch Reformed Church Synod. Petition were circulated across the Colony. Cabinet minister, J.H. Hofmeyr, was unable to get his political colleagues to support a move to allow Dutch to be spoken in debate. He (Hofmeyr) entrusted this motion to Ds. W.P. de Villiers of Beaufort West, but “it was talked to death” by its opponents and no vote was taken.
Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them – James Baldwin