Africa 1928 – 30, The result of the African experience

I write this to draw conclusions about psychological reactions in children, they and their adults are not aware of, but which have damaging long term consequences; not making a criminal, but disadvantaging and imprinting a permanent lack of self-respect on the child. The final paragraphs are extracts from a previous, general comment on my African experiences. I am not whinging, I’ve had a wonderful life, but those two years altered my outlook and potential, permanently. In retrospect, I can see the experience damaged my outlook, especially regarding my personal assessment of my intellectual standing, until I was 28 yeas old. This is not psycho-babble, it’s an awakening in old age of an experience which should not be repeated on anyone. I was dropped into a totally strange and false environment.
It was false, it was play-acting, totally unreal, and unrelated to my previous six years. Some of the Civil Servants came from the landed gentry, with Oxbridge degrees and they set the tone. The rest, like my father were educated, but making their way, not backed by old money. With cheap labour; the housing, local schooling and welfare, all included in the contract, they lived miles above that required with a ‘Home’ posting. In consequence, from observation as a mere child, added to later analysis based upon Imperial Civil Service experience, I realised that those on the lower rungs of the ladder were aping, or having to fall in with, the protocols of their richer masters. This was inevitable as the number of whites in Livingstone in 1928 was pitifully small, and this was borne out by so few who met together socially.
School, in Livingstone started very early and finished around midday to permit all to enjoy a peaceful siesta when the sun was at its zenith. I personally found it irksome to have to rest for at least an hour and often more. I have since discovered to my cost that those educational standards were very low, and this was probably the reason children were sent to the Cape – Capetown – or Bulawayo to be educated from about the age of eight until they were old enough to be sent even further afield, to boarding school in England. The poor wretches might not have returned home for years as the journey took so long and commercial flying was not the norm. I spent only two years in Livingstone. By the time I had returned to England, I had lost at least one year’s education and probably more, and this, above all else affected me for the rest of my life.
My loss of education resulted in my appearing retarded. My self-appraisal was coloured by the comments of others and seemed, by test results to be irrefutable. When I came home and was judged by those doing the assessing in England, my capabilities were related to my age and size rather than to my intellectual ability. I was deemed backward and placed in a class accordingly and, indeed, I was 21 years old before I reached my full potential, and sixty before Sophie brought the logic of this train of events to my attention. It’s easy to believe you’re stupid when enough people indicate you are, either outright or by all the subtle implications which offer themselves in an academic career, starting from the beatings for not being able to attain certain standards, to being left behind when all your friends move on up the school, leaving you to lick your wounds and adjust yet again.
I sincerely believe that often the signs are there if only people will take the time to read them, and that misinterpretation is the scourge of doctrinal preaching and half-baked philosophy. For example if less attention was paid to the fact that a teacher gave a cuff round the ear and more to why it was needed in the first place, we might progress. I should know, I’ve been thrashed more than most for less than most. Bad behaviour within adolescents can often be due to reasonable frustration, or anger at one’s own deficiencies, which again is frustration

Categorized as General

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