MY IMPRESSIONS AND WORK AT INANDA SEMINARY
Bernice Haskins Post
Transcribed by Roselda Tarr
It was like entering into another world two years ago in July, when I got out of the car at Inanda Seminary just in time for late evening tea. I knew I had left my loved ones at home yet I was made to feel at once that I was joining another family of dear ones. Not only did the Europeans, but later the African people and students as well, made me feel at home. There were letters of welcome waiting for me in my room , along with a lovely bouquet of poinsettias. That night as I looked around the long tea table in the dimly lighted room (the light plant was not working), I thought 'what a quaint place this is.' The room with its high ceiling and old furniture took me back about 50 years. The cookies and cake plates had plastic covers; the sugar bowls and water pitcher were covered with net doilies edged in beads; and the tea pot wore a cozy. How queer it seemed, but more wonders were in store for me at breakfast, such as white linen napkins in rings, much silverware at each place setting, all courses served by Miss Scott, who rang a little bell after each course to call the waitress. There were brass finger bowls to use after the fresh fruit course, and the eggs appeared in egg cups, with cozies provided if they could not be eaten at once. By now I know the reasons for these things, but it all seemed very strange to this Mid-Westerner at first. I now also know that we will have mealie meal (corn meal mush), oat meal or mabella porridge for breakfast, and either muffins or scones. For both breakfast and supper we will have a choice of fresh fruit. The big meal of the day is at 1 p.m. Here again were things to become accustomed to. Bread is never served with the noon meal. Pumpkin is used as a vegetable and is served boiled or baked. Pumpkin leaves are used for greens. Pies may be baked in deep rectangular dishes and still be pies; however, our food is excellent. Miss Magwaza has been cooking for the European staff for 39 years.
Having so much fresh fruit has been a delight. The fruits raised here and locally are oranges, bananas, lemons, pineapples, guavas, mangoes, avocadoes, naartjies, loquats, paw-paws, ground cherries, and grenadillas.
Early the next morning after my arrival, I took a walk to see the garden and flowers. I met the two old bare foot, much patched, gardeners. Though we could not talk each other's language, we were friends at once. These two have been on the job here together for 15 or more years. Most of the garden work is done by hand with large heavy hoes, though some of the plowing is done with oxen. Water is carried in watering cans. Quite a number of young boys work in the gardens during the holidays for 28 cents per day. Most of the vegetables raised here are grown in our gardens in the U.S.A. Many beans, mealies (corn), sweet potatoes, pumpkin and amadumbi are grown locally.
June, July and August are the cold dry winter months; with temperature ranging from 40 to 60 degrees in the early mornings. These mornings seemed colder to me than zero at home. In the summer the temperature gets into the 90's. That is the season that dark woolen clothes and leather shoes mildew.
Local women are hired to do laundry by hand (though the girls do their own) and to cut grass with hand sickles. They receive about 50 cents per day. The women wove wattle poles together to make a new end for our garage.
A crew of about 30 men are always hired for the upkeep of the place. The workmen, most of them bare foot, check in for work at 6:30 a. m. Soon little fires are going for their 7 a. m. tea. They work until 3 p. m. Their methods of work seem quite out-dated; for example, they use hand lawn mowers instead of motor power ones and forked sticks instead of pitch forks. The herdsman lets the calf help milk the cow. Sometimes it gets more than its share.
We have two little herd boys who tend the cattle in the day time and who go to school at night. Four of the students teach them. Their parents receive $2.38 per month for their work and the boys get 4 pennies per week spending money.
Our grounds at the Seminary are beautiful, though most of the buildings, except our lovely chapel, look old. Large gum trees line the avenue. Something is always blooming. The following are some of the flowers, trees, and shrubs that we have: roses the year around, cannas, arum lilies and Easter lilies, jacaranda, flamboyant, spathodia, azalea, pride of India, petria, cycad, palms, hydrangeas, camelias, hibiscus, bougainvillea, and poinsettia.
I was soon warned to be on the look out for snakes and to carry a flash light at night. Most snakes here are poisonous. Those most common are puff adders and mambas. The office pays six pence each for snakes killed on our grounds.
There are many grass fires in the winter months, set partly to get rid of snakes and ticks; also, so the new grass will not be growing up in the old grass. Sometimes the fires get out of control and burn large sugar cane fields. They are frightening. When they get to close to our buildings we have to go out with branches and wet sacks to help fight them.
I have been fascinated by all the little harmless creatures and their funny noises: such as very long fat angle worms; large snails; cunning little lizard, chameleons. bats and frogs that make queer sounds at night, to say nothing of the troublesome mosquitoes and swarms of bees which do not fascinate me.. The various kinds of birds add joy: the lovely white egrets which perch on cattle looking for ticks; the noisy, scolding minah birds; the night jars with their melodious night song, and the doves which begin the day at 4:30 a.m. with soft praises.
Since I arrived in July I got to meet the Mission people at the Mission Council meeting bebefore school started. The Council meets in July and in January. This is not only a time to carry on the business of the Mission but is looked forward to as a time to renewed friendships. It is sort of like a family reunion.
The Religious Education meeting is after Christmas each year. At this time about 100 African and European Mission folks meet for a week of work and fellowship, to go over the Sunday School work and Holiday School plans for the coming year. The Sunday School lessons have had to be written and adapted to the needs and environment of the African people. Most of us have had a turn in writing some of the lessons.
Imanda trains and sends out girls to teach in 8 or 9 Sunday Schools in this area. Some of these places are several miles from here and are reached only by steep foot paths. A staff member always accompanies the girls. I go every other Sunday with 11 girls to Plazini Sunday School. It is 3/4 mile from here and is in Mrs. M'bili's home. There is an average attendance of 55 children each Sunday. The girls meet in my room each Sunday after church service for supplies for activities and for any last instructions about the day's Sunday School lesson bebefore going out at 2:30 p.m. Many girls ask for the used quarterlies to take home to use in their own communities.
Since I am a home economics teacher I wondered at first how I would ever get along teaching cookery with smoky wood and coal stoves. The kitchen looked so drab with its long benches to sit on, lack of curtains and paint, but there seems to be a reason for keeping things as they are. It is all much more than they are used to having in their homes, and it is surprising how well one can get along with so little of the modern things to do with. We have class monitors whose jobs are to build fires, sweep, put water on to heat etc. The girls love to bake. Much opportunity for baking has been lacking in their homes. They are proud of what they make, and have to learn not to be selfish in sharing what they make with their classmates. Since malnutrition is so prevalent we stress good nutrition and the basic seven, trying to make and teach what they can do at home with their meager food supplies. Each year we make dry yeast for the class to take home because Africans are not allowed to buy yeast, as so many use it to make illegal beer.
In housecraft theory and practical work, we stress how to become good homemakers and how to add a little beauty to the homes. Some of our projects have been the daily and weekly cleaning of rooms, learning something of color harmonies, painting and putting designs on tins, making and varnishing game boxes, making pieced pillow tops and knitting bags, refinishing floors and furniture, furniture arrangement, curtains, framing pictures with passe-partou, making nylon flowers, and stuffed toys, making flower arrangements, and mending.
I find most of the girls appreciative, eager to learn, patient,
and a joy to work with, though sometimes slow in comprehending
what it is all about. In visiting with 3 African gentlemen after
a Race Relations meeting in Durban one night, they said 'teach
the girls how to be clean and how to dress and cook western so
that the men folks coming home from city jobs will be proud of
their wives and won't find city women more attractive than their
wives at home.' Africa is in a state of transition, the primitive
side by side with the modern. Most of the men work in cities in
modern environment, while their wives stay at home, hoe the gardens
and raise large families; but now more and more women are working
in the cities also, leaving the children to be reared by the grand-parents.
I have enjoyed teaching scripture to 2 classes. It has made me probe into Bible commentaries as I have never done bebefore. The girls are interested and ask questions that fairly stump me sometimes. The scripture classes always sing a chorus bebefore starting their class period.
Let me relate further how school life goes on at a girl's boarding school. Girls in all classes rise to show respect when a teacher enters the room. Students of all ages in Africa wear school uniforms. Our girls wear black jumpers or skirts with khaki shirts; on Sundays they wear white shirts.
The rising bell rings at 5:10 a.m. There is one class period at 6:30 a.m. Campus care is at 7 a.m. and breakfast at 7:30. Chapel is at 8 a.m. Classes start at 8:40 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. Evening preparation is from 4:45 p.m. until 8:20 p.m.
Teachers or class prefects give girls marks for misbehavior. They work 30 minutes for each mark on Saturday afternoons, usually cutting grass with hand sickles. On Friday afternoons, girls are given opportunity to work 30 minutes cutting grass for a penny for the Sunday offering. Many ask the staff for work to earn money for postage stamps or school supplies.
Saturday night is student night when the girls have concerts, dramatizations, debates, stunt night, movies, etc.
All girls take part in some sport once a week: net ball, tennis, tenikoit, or croquet. I supervise tenikoit from 4:15p.m. to 5:15p.m. on Monday nights. The girls compete in the various sports with other schools several times a year. There is one sports day each year when 8 schools compete for a cup, in all kinds of sport events. The bottle race (running with bottles on their heads) and the rope skipping race were new to me.
Our choir is asked to sing in European churches in Durban occasionally.
The girls sing beautifully
Saturday and Sunday afternoons one may see girls entertaining their visitors on the veranda by the office. The girls may take a walk on Sunday afternoons with a teacher if 10 or more want to go.
The staff takes turns for leading chapel, weekend duty, and evening preparation. The staff all has morning tea together. We have staff prayer meetings on Thursday nights for those who want to attend.
Getting ready for school to close is a major event. Cartoons with visions of trains going home for the holidays appear on the blackboards before closing time. Examination weeks are very important since promotion depends entirely upon passing the final examinations. The students help clear all equipment and class rooms. When the big day finally arrives, what excitement it is before daylight getting the girls and luggage packed into the 5 big buses, which take them to the rail station in Durban.
This then is Inanda Seminary: the friendly place that makes birthdays and leave-takings special occasions; the place where folks come out to the car to greet you upon arrival and to bid you good-bye when you leave; the place where many fine people have found hospitality and help.
This is Africa where one sees many, many people of all ages walking, wearing all sorts of costumes, carrying burdens on their heads and babies on their backs; where one sees goats and chickens of all ages any month of the year.
When people go to church the men sit on one side of the church, the women on the other. Little children sit patiently for hours during a long service. A wedding ceremony lasts several hours, and the bride cannot go back to her own family to visit for 3 months after the wedding. Church bells begin tolling for a funeral any time after 4:00 a.m. A year after a death of an adult there may be a long memorial service followed by a feast.
Thus one soon fits into and becomes a part of this different world with its strange customs, where the primitive and the modern are mingled.
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