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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

14 Jan 1992: Dolo, Pauline

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POM     Could you maybe first of all just give me a little bit of background on yourself, where you were born, your family, how you ended up as a teacher?

PD     I was born in Alexandra on 24 September 1966 from a very poor family. My father was working as a petrol attendant and my mother was a domestic worker and since then we have been staying in the township up to now. I started school here in Alexandra at the lower primary community school and later I attended Alexandra High School and through the help of bursaries and financial assistance from relatives I went to Soweto College of Education where I trained as a teacher for three years. I started teaching in January 1990 so this is my third year of teaching at East Bank High School. I started teaching when the school was started, when the school opened.

POM     How many brothers and sisters?

PD     I've got two brothers and three sisters. I'm the fifth in the family.

POM     Do you live at home still?

PD     I still live at home.

POM     With your mother and father, they're all there?

PD     My father passed away about two years ago. My mother is still there.

POM     Are you very attached to Alexandra?

PD     Yes, very much.

POM     Is this where you'd like to stay?

PD     I grew up here.

POM     Is this where you think you'd like to live during the rest of your life?

PD     Not really. It's just that at the moment I don't have plans what to do, like where to go. No, I'd like to move to other places but I'm not yet ready for that.

POM     I want to go back, my starting point is the day Nelson Mandela got released, February 1990. Can you remember that day?

PD     I don't remember that day very well but what I know is everybody was excited because ever since he was in jail, he was arrested, there was a general complaint that why was he detained. I think most of the people thought that if he wasn't detained then he would be a ruler somehow, a leader. That's what a lot of people had in mind.

POM     Was there a great expectation of change?

PD     Yes there was. Everybody thought that once he can be released then there's going to be a change, a great change. So we don't know.

POM     Those great changes haven't taken place yet?

PD     I don't think well just a few changes. The problem is after he was released violence was just too much, there was too much violence since then. I think some of the leaders, who were not detained, were threatened by his coming back and that is the reason why they didn't like his being released. It didn't satisfy a lot of people, especially the leaders because I think there is some kind of power struggle. That's the reason why other people seem not to be happy. That's what I think. I mean it's surprising, we've been waiting, anxiously waiting for Mandela all these years but after he was released there was violence all around the country and we could never really know who caused this violence, I mean the people who were causing it.

POM     When you look at the violence that took place here, I remember when I visited Linda (Twala) in August of 1990 he was very proud of the fact that Alexandra seemed to be able to manoeuvre itself to escape the violence and then everything kind of fell apart the following January/February. Who do you think was to blame for the violence here?

PD     For the violence in Alexandra? Well I think the Inkatha people are the cause of this violence.  It's in their blood, fighting is in their blood. They are just used to fighting. They were the cause because everybody knew that Inkatha was the main cause of the violence and we really don't understand because it's like they've got support, serious support from the government.

POM     They've got serious support from the government?

PD     Yes they do. I mean the reason why the violence can't stop is because it's going to easy if the government could just say, "Now is the end to violence, we are going to take serious steps against anybody who is going to cause violence." If they could just take such measures I think the violence could stop easily. Now that they are not taking it very seriously it's like they appreciate that thing, Inkatha fighting people, because at some stage people used to witness scenes whereby Inkatha people were inside the hippo and such things. There was something like that. People used to say people just come out of the hippo and start shooting and killing people. The hippos were used by Inkatha people.

POM     Has the violence divided Alexandra?

PD     At one stage it did because there was a time when everybody in the township got tired of the violence. I mean people in the township used to fight people in the hostels and that's why I think people were tired about this violence and they were divided for that matter.

POM     Someone told me that the Zulu speaking people who lived in other areas, especially Xhosa areas, moved into Zulu speaking areas and Xhosa speaking people in Zulu areas moved out and were moved into areas where there were Xhosa speaking people.

PD     What I know is Xhosa people were just among the other groups of people so they were unified with the rest of the groups, they were fighting against the Zulus. Yes, Xhosas were not involved, are not mixed up with the Zulus.

POM     If you look at living conditions of people here in Alexandra today and look at the way they were about the time Mandela was released and this process got under way, are people today better off, worse off or not better or worse off, just about the same?

PD     I think they are worse because to start with I mean there was this law of influx control so people were stopped from coming from the homelands to the urban areas but, unfortunately, ever since Mandela's release everybody came from different places and they are all packed in here, especially Alexandra, it's so packed up. Some time ago there came the rule that people can just build shacks wherever they feel like building. So everybody was out of hand, everybody was just out of hand because people were no longer told to move because, I mean, Mandela is there. Alexandra is so packed today because of that. Not necessarily that those people are supposed to stay in the homelands because obviously they came here because of starvation, perhaps of hunger in the homelands, but there's nothing changed so far according to my own point of view.

POM     So you could wake up tomorrow morning and find that somebody had erected a shack right outside your house?

PD     Just in front of you, yes, that's it.

POM     And there's nothing that you could do about it.

PD     Nothing that you can do and another thing is that you are even afraid to approach that person because perhaps he's a member of Inkatha and the like. We are even afraid just of talking about Inkatha because you don't know whether somebody will send people to come and kill you. That's it, there was a time when you couldn't just say your mind at the bus rank or taxi rank, anywhere, because you're afraid of being intimidated or something would be done to you. We don't know whether this one is a member of Inkatha or not.

POM     So there's a much greater feeling of fear is there, of intimidation?

PD     Yes.

POM     People are reserved, they keep to themselves.

PD     We live in fear because if once you can mention an Inkatha name and causing violence you can be victimised, somebody else can victimise you. It's terrible.

POM     So you've been disappointed then in the last two years? You've been disappointed in the changes, the big changes that you expected to take place?

PD     Oh OK, yes. Perhaps we exercised higher hopes, I don't know. Perhaps things are going to change dramatically and very quickly but unfortunately well OK, there is change but it's very slow, very slow. You understand that we don't feel it because it's very slow, a very slow situation.

     Now coming to education I think nothing has changed so far. I feel so bad. Last year I had 96 pupils in my class. I just couldn't handle that one. I had 96, I couldn't manage my work, my schedule. I had to do the schedule for the whole 96 pupils, can you imagine?

POM     What's the name of the school?

PD     East Bank High School and we asked for accommodation at the primary school. The principal decided to chase us away so we went to I wish you could see that place. We spent about five months there. Learning was very difficult in that place so we had to move to protect our pupils.

POM     Were you moving around your class or the whole school?

PD     We had to move the whole school because we were waiting for our school to be finished which took about four years. Can you imagine under such situations at the end of the year you are expected to produce very good results?

POM     What grade class are you teaching?

PD     Standard 6, Standard 7.

POM     So the ages of the pupils would be about?

PD     13, 14, 15.

POM     A very difficult age to start with.

PD     Very difficult. There was a stage when they broke the windows that we were told to move.

POM     Of the 96 children in the class how many would turn up, would actually attend class on a day to day basis?

PD     About 80 perhaps. 80, 90, sometimes they do attend. Attendance is very good. They are kept busy somehow those pupils, cannot just roam in the township some of them. They attend school for different reasons. Others attend because they just want to not be at home, others attend because, well, they do have aims, but some just are going in the township.

POM     So if you had to list out the main things that are wrong with the manner in which black people are educated, what are they? What are the main problems with the system of education that is in place for blacks today? What makes it so poor and difficult?

PD     Do you mean like the failure rate? Are you referring to that? The failure rate of matriculants?

POM     Yes.

PD     Imagine if you teach 96 pupils in class, because, I mean, with us blacks you never ever find a class with less than 40 pupils. We are packed in the classroom, shortage of textbooks, under-qualified teachers, and at some stage you lose interest in teaching especially under a roof which is about to fall on top of your head, something like that, like our situation as I've explained to you, last year it was terrible, especially the lack of facilities. With everything we're going to have a problem, it's going take a very long time for blacks to improve education-wise, with education, if they are not given proper facilities like whites. Right now how our children - there's no teaching, not every school has just got a library, media centre, laboratories, such things, not every school has got that, just a few.

POM     Does your school have any of those things?

PD     It does have. OK, with our school because it's so brand new, we've got the building, we've got the rooms but facilities are not yet there and we haven't yet received the books. We're still waiting.

POM     Do you have a hard time keeping control over 96 students?

PD     It's very difficult. I think I'm going to get old very quickly. I can't cope. I do have patience but with them at some stage I feel my nerves are really strained I must say.

POM     Sure. Do you give them homework assignments?

PD     We do, especially if you think you are prepared to do your work. I was teaching English and Afrikaans last year. Can you imagine teaching language, grammar, literature and trying by all means to give them work for all those and do it altogether in class? It was terrible for me, I couldn't manage but I tried very hard. At some stage I slept for only a few hours at night because trying to prepare, trying to mark their essays, trying to plan work for the next day. That was demanding. And shortage of teachers as well, great shortage of teachers. That's the reason why I used to teach this number because that was just suitable for three teachers. So if we had enough teachers I wouldn't be teaching so much.

POM     So you need more teachers, better qualified teachers.

PD     Yes, better qualified teachers.

POM     More schoolrooms.

PD     Yes more classrooms.

POM     And more facilities.

PD     More facilities and more teachers. And coming to matric I am afraid it's like our examinations are more difficult than the whites.

POM     They are?

PD     I think they are. I wonder if perhaps it's due to not being too prepared. I mean it's like they are not given enough information about the examinations and the like because if you can just compare at some stage there are schools whereby you get 0% pass and whereas with white schools there will be 99% pass in other white schools.

POM     So are there different matriculation examinations for each different group?

PD     Yes, department of education.

POM     Are there 14 different departments or something? So there's one for Zulus, one for - ?

PD     No, no, not with us. With us it's still the same syllabus. The set up for blacks is just the same, for all blacks it's the same, the only difference is with the whites, from the private schools.

POM     But they're asked different questions on the same subject?

PD     Not really, I'm not sure. Well even if they are but I think the questions are not the same. The method of asking questions is not quite the same, and perhaps, of course, of teaching and of our giving the school for examinations, for instance. Like with whites I think they are given just enough school, perhaps almost the same, exactly what they will be given they will be tested on during the exam. Do you understand? They are just told

POM     Concentrate on this.

PD     Yes, concentrate maybe on this and this and this. And at the end of the day if the child is intelligent enough, or the student, she or he will make it a point that she's going to read those parts, those parts and there is nothing which can prevent her from failing.

POM     Just run through with me the four different models of schools that are now in operation like Model A, B, C and D. Model A is? What kind of school is a Model A school?

PD     Model A, to mean the sub-standard, because with us we don't use those words. We've got Sub A, Sub B, Standard 1 and they differ from the whites because they call them Grade 1, Grade 2 and the like.

POM     I'm talking like Orange Grove, Orange Grove is called a Model D school.

PD     OK. Because Model A, I think it's a black school in a white area, something like that. I'm not familiar with this model. But there is Model B which is multi-racial, whites and blacks, but the black students shouldn't dominate the whites, shouldn't dominate the whites. It's got to be lesser.

POM     It's got to be less number.

PD     That school should just remain being a white school. Then I don't know about Model C or Model D. Perhaps they are the private schools.

POM     You talked about how the rate of change had been slow in everything. Why do you think it has been so slow?

PD     I don't know, I think it was because when such steps should be taken people were fighting and trying to resolve problems. Like when Mandela was released instead of just trying to have changes here and there, start to do this and that, there was this violence which destabilised everything so I think that is part of that cause of the change being slow.

POM     The violence that has - ?

PD     It's the violence because most of the time they are concentrating on solving this, trying to get a solution for this, trying to find who did this and that, who came up with this, why did this so-and-so say this. I mean they have been not in good hands because they're always opposing each other. Right now this CODESA issue, there are some of the leaders which are not for it, like Mangosuthu, they are not very much for the idea of CODESA so those are some of the things which might delay change.

POM     What do you think will emerge out of CODESA?

PD     Well we just hope that if the leaders are working together then at the end of the day they will just think alike and apartheid won't be too serious. There will always be apartheid but at least I think it will not be like it used to because you will sharing ideas and trying to balance things among different race groups. Because CODESA, I mean it's represented by different race groups and people from different organisations, parties, so I think  from CODESA, we are really expecting changes, great changes.

POM     If out of CODESA emerges a new constitution which provides that power would be shared between the two major parties, the ANC and the National Party, where the ANC would be the senior partner but where the National Party would still have certain ministerial posts, maybe finance, transportation, agriculture. Would you find that an acceptable outcome?

PD     No, it can't be acceptable at all because if they do share then they've got to share views as well in each and every category, each and every department that they are forming. Really the constitution, the new constitution, they are working together, then there shouldn't be National Party for the finance and transportation and whatever. They just have to discuss the whole thing. The National Party shouldn't rule certain things control certain things.

POM     No they wouldn't be controlling it, they would be sharing power with the ANC but the ANC would have a majority of members of the government so the ANC would really be in control but they still would be sharing power; it would be like saying there are two partners.

PD     Are you saying the Labour Party will still be having the last word in some of the things?

POM     No, no. What would you like to see?

PD     The thing is I'm not really satisfied, or perhaps I don't understand it. You're saying, OK, the ANC will be leading, but the Labour Party will be

POM     No, the National Party.

PD     The National Party will be in control of that.

POM     You know how in a government there are all these ministers, a Minister of Finance, a Minister of Education, minister of this, minister of that, and then there's the State President. So let's say we say the ANC is the largest party, they elect the State President, they hold most of the ministerships but they say we will have the National Party, we'll make their members ministers for four of these, four of the twenty ministries. So out of twenty different government departments four of them would be headed by a member of the National Party but the ANC would be in control of the government.

PD     OK, I'm sorry, if I may ask, what do you think Inkatha's reaction going to be if Mandela is the leader? What do you think about it? I'm sorry to ask, what do you predict? Are you foreseeing - ?

POM     Maybe, he will probably look for a federal system of government where he would be mainly in charge in Natal or in KwaZulu.

PD     So do you think he will accept it? What do you think of this?

POM     I don't know. I think if the ANC shares power with the National Party I think Buthelezi will have a far more difficult time. He's going to be put out there on his own.

PD     I feel he's not going to appreciate that. So the reason, perhaps  they are causing violence deliberately because they would like to delay such things perhaps.

POM     Inkatha and SADF themselves?

PD     Inkatha.

POM     Do you think the government is helping Inkatha in the violence?

PD     I think they do because in the past there were these stories of Inkatha being supported by SADF. I think you know about this kind of thing, you've heard about that. If that is the case then we will become so confused, don't know what the future holds for us. If Inkatha with its violent people are supported by the government then we are really lost, we don't know what the future holds for us. Honestly, if that is the case it doesn't necessarily mean, it doesn't mean - I don't think they like Mandela very much, it's just that they don't know what do. They don't have a choice, they can't say anything. They can't do anything to Mandela because he's got a lot of supporters all over the world.

POM     Do you feel very uncertain about the future?

PD     Very much. I feel very uncertain. OK, I do feel that Mandela deserves the position as the leader or the president, whatever position they might give to him, but we are just scared what is going to happen because, honestly speaking, the National Party I don't think they will accept Mandela as the leader, the black man as the leader.

POM     You don't think so?

PD     I don't think so. It's going to take ages before they accept that.

POM     People aren't going to wait that long. The blacks aren't going to wait that long, are they?

PD     No they are not. That's exactly what people are fighting for, some of the politicians are now fighting for, but not with Inkatha. Inkatha is really disrupting the whole thing. They make comments like, "The ANC always feels it's the best." When such comments are uttered you tend to be very uncertain as to what the future holds if fellow blacks criticise the others. Like Inkatha, they are always criticising the ANC.

POM     Does this uncertainty make you anxious?

PD     And another thing, what surprises us is Mangosuthu is given as much publicity as Mandela. More publicity.

POM     He's given more publicity?

PD     Yes. I think you can just watch the television, TV1 which is the channel for whites. Mangosuthu is always in the news whereas we know very well that they are so choosy in coming to the news, it's not very easy for anybody to appear on that channel so whatever appears there they take it as a very constructive thing. So once they're always given the chance of appearing on the screen it's simply showing that they do appreciate his ideas as the right thing. I can't stand him. That is just what I don't like, a person I don't like. Even on our channels, TV 2 and 3 and 4, Mangosuthu is always given chance of talking, if he's giving a speech somewhere else then he will be on the screen and which you know very well a lot of things are censored because it can be shown to the public.

POM     So you're not all that optimistic about the future at all are you?

PD     OK, Mandela, I do trust him. I know he is capable and he deserves the position and it suits him but I'm just afraid how are the others going to react to him.

POM     A couple of days ago in Bloemfontein, on the 80th anniversary of the ANC's founding, he said that within six months there would be an interim government and within 12 months an election for a Constituent Assembly.

PD     That's really what we're still waiting for.

POM     Do you think that will happen within the next year? Do you think things will happen that quickly? He said within six months we will have an interim government and within 12 months we will have an election for a Constituent Assembly.

PD     I still remember that but we are not sure as to what will happen, especially the interim government, because there are always things which disrupt such things. I'm not negative at all, I do like change. We are all waiting because change is going to change the lives of a lot of us but with the actions which are still prevailing then one always has a question mark as to what will happen.

POM     How about right wing violence, the AWB, do you think that's a real factor or that the government could easily crack down on it if it wished to?

PD     The AWB, what about it?

POM     Well lately the right wing has been bombing schools and whatever, do you think that's a real serious threat for the future?

PD     I think like I have told you that there are a lot of ways of disrupting and delaying constructive things to take place. They have a way of disrupting such things, of delaying progress, because if you forget a bit about forming an interim government and holding elections and the like, if you forget about such things and concentrate on solving and trying to find out who did this and the like, that's how I take the whole thing. They are really delaying progress and change because if money is supposed to be used for something else it's going to be used to rebuild such schools. It's just delaying progress, just disruptive for people.

POM     OK, I will leave it at that for today. In time I'll have this typed up and sent on to you. Can I send it to you care of here? Or have you a home post office address?

PD     [Pauline Dolo, 59 5th Avenue, Alexandra Township, Johannesburg 2090.  My telephone number 4433317.]

POM     Thank you very much. I appreciate your taking the time.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.