LiBeL Column

Scattelings of Africa

Columns from The Nation newspaper

Investigative journalism at its very best

Is truth stranger than fiction? Let’s leave St Judas’ Academy for Serial Under-performers behind and hit the road. We’re heading due south to a place where farangs greet each other with a cheery “Aita brah!” and ‘okes’ ‘down wetties’ on a Friday night. Sit back armchair travelers, as we take a peek into happenings in ‘Van Tosser’s land’ (As the South African run school, in a Southern Thailand township, is affectionately known in .)

A well-known effeminate English bloke once wrote a hummable little ditty about the effects of the tropical heat on the human brain. If he were alive today, and been visiting the South of Thailand, he might have written “Mad dogs and principals from the Platteland go out in the midday sun”.

The first sign that multiracial harmony was taking a bashing was when I was presented with the legendary ‘Van Tosser’ files – a collection of internal memos and various assorted items of gobbledy-gook that appeared to eminate from behind the door of the baby Botha’s office.

In true investigative journalism style, let’s take a look at some damning evidence. Exhibit A, the staff memo. Things to look out for in the following excerpts are:

A ‘my way or the highway’ management style.

Gestapo tactics interspersed with a type of hippy pseudo-intellectual motivational nonsense.

An extremely poor joke at the end of his memo.

Cynics might say it’s a bit of bit of post apartheid guilt? Others may simply snigger at the thought of staff wearing waiter/waitress style uniforms.
I’ll leave it to you to decide what medication, legal or otherwise the writer was on whilst he was typing this.

4.1) Kindly take a huge dose of maturity and then, in a mature fashion, go clear up with any colleague as to why you do not think they are worthy of your “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon”. Sort it out and then spread your own brand of warmth and kindness; and welcome to the world of sunshine.

4.2) As from yesterday we will all wear the school uniform, as correct shirts have now been handed out and extra shirts are on sale. Not asking; I am telling!

4.3) Group dynamics moves up and down the four vowels of group classification and in any corporate/school situation in the whole wide world, certain elements drag a group, or segments of a group, into a “wobbly” phase. The old culprits are basic human failings; opting for the soft option; jumping to confusions, uncontrolled emotions, negativity, lack of sound reasoning, self-above group, abrasive behaviour and help improve a system and not try destroy a system! Beware of the human flaws, try to contain them and enjoy inner peace and the silent admiration of those around you.

Q. What is black and white and smiles all day?
A. A ******* school staff member!

Now if that isn’t bollocks I really don’t know what is.

Seems the guy who wrote this is suffering from a morbid fear of failure, a love of psycho-babble and severe sun stroke. ‘guy’, ‘is’, This, ‘f&%#ed’,’up’. These five words can be rearranged into a simplistic explanation regarding what you’ve just read.

For any Thai learners searching vainly for educational content on this page of the revamped Nation, they also serve as an exercise in everyday English.

I’ve had a fair number of emails about life at the school and, it must be said, that everyone seems to agree that the standard of education is pretty good. Thus far the pupils haven’t suffered under the new regime only the teachers.

Virtually all the farang teachers hail from South Africa – where the Headteacher regularly recruits eager, barely qualified would be educators. They are promised free accommodation, short working hours, small classes. In fact, anything to get them to sign their life away for 12 months. Whilst all the guys they bring over may be keen, apparently none of the present rank and file teaching staff have a degree of any kind. I should clarify that last remark – ‘real degrees’, because if the paperwork for their work permits is to be believed, they are all graduates from the same university – UCT. This could be either a) an uncanny coincidence of the kind you see on strange-but-true TV shows or b) what happens when you pay the supreme Springbok 4,000 Baht for a fake degree.

Anyone searching for some light amidst the negativity will, I’m sure be perked up by the knowledge that only a couple of teachers are undergoing anti-depressant drug therapy at present. So, on that upbeat note, let’s end with a rousing chorus of the school song – “Kumbaya, my Lord”.

Disclaimer:

The above diatribe is in no way aimed at the wealthy, well connected hi-so owners of any particular school, and especially not those who operate a policy of zero tolerance when it comes to any form of criticism. My only aim is to make a mockery of Herr Johannes and his clan, who run the school, please note that the monikers have been changed to protect the guilty.