Methods of Assimilation

This is an excerpt from a chapter I wrote in collaboration with Assoc. Prof Jenny de Reuck and Dr Sharifa Ahjum. The chapter is published in Postgraduate Research Supervision: Transforming (R) Elations. Edited by Alison Bartlett & Gina Mercer. Publ. Peter Lang (2001). I’m blogging it here because it segues into my previous post, “Letters from School”, and gives some background as to why I was at boarding school so young. OK, so here goes:

My Grandmother was Russian. When she spoke English it sounded like Russian— unless you knew her well. “You must speak English without an accent” my Bulgarian Grandfather instructed his children. I only know English for we only spoke English at home. This was one way of assimilating into the British Colonial society that dominated central southern Africa. Thus, when Zimbabwe was Southern Rhodesia, and Harare, Salisbury that’s when and where I was born.

Another way of assimilating was to send me, at six years old, to a Church of England Girls School as a boarder. After the glorious freedom of farm life, after being the fourth child and born to a mother already in her late thirties—and the benign neglect this conferred, boarding school was hell. As an outsider with the ‘wrong’ name (Bulgarian), the ‘wrong’ hair (frizzy) and the ‘wrong’ accent, I discovered my ‘otherness’ within the dominant white minority. In retrospect, poor health brought on by recurring bouts of malaria saved me staying a boarder after the first year, although I remained a pupil at the school. All through school I was a rebellious and disruptive pupil who questioned everything at a time when unquestioning obedience was presumed mandatory. I was perpetually in trouble, sometimes serious but usually for infringing some petty rule like running in the quadrangle. On the strength of my unhappy school experience I vowed never to send any child of mine to boarding school.

book

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Methods of Assimilation

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