HAVING taught through some of South Africa’s major changes in education, Malcom Andrew is still as passionate about teaching as he was when he started 50 years ago.
Andrew should have hung up his academic gown ages ago, but the quintessential history teacher is still going strong, having just added Grey High School to his impressive report card.
The 72-year-old teacher, whose high-profile former pupils include South African cricketer Makhaya Ntini and the late cricket commentator Tony Greig, said the profession was still as exciting as ever, stressing the need for optimism among teachers, parents and pupils.
Refuting the perception that teaching was a dying profession, especially with the myriad challenges in the provincial education department, Andrew said things were looking up after a slump in staff morale.
“What we need [in this department] are people who will say ‘let us not be part of the problem, let us solve the problem’.”
Andrew started teaching at Queenstown’s Queen’s College in 1963 for three years, before joining Westerford High School and thereafter Pinelands High, both in Cape Town.
He was driven by a deep- rooted desire to give pupils the best opportunities, driven by his mantra to have “every pupil reach their dream”.
Andrew returned to the Eastern Cape in 1980 when he was called on to revive Dale College in King William’s Town after pupil numbers nose-dived due to political uncertainty at the time that saw parents pulling their children out of the school.
“I must say we were very successful at that, thanks to the magnificent staff that we had. Most of [that staff] are headmasters at some of the province’s best schools,” he said.
It was here that Andrew got to know a then “scruffy” Ntini who did not speak a word of English and wore “dodgy” clothes.
Watching the cricketer transform into a confident sporting legend was one of the many highlights of his career.
Asked to comment on the current state of education and claims by some that education was better during the apartheid era, he said it was not a fair comparison.
“Back then there were different education departments catering to different groups, so there were fewer pupils and staff to look after compared to now, where five departments have been merged into one.”
After leaving Dale, Andrew was taken out of the classroom and into the office when he was asked to help run the matric examination board for five years in 1996 – a task he described as tough.
“That was around the time when government was trying to put together the five departments into one. Whatever we did, there was just not enough money to do it, but by the time I left things were up and running.”
Andrew retired in 2000 and moved to Port Elizabeth with his wife, Pam, but was soon called back into the classroom by Westering High School principal, Ken Ball who used to teach at Dale.
“I had decided I was too old and felt I needed to be doing domestic stuff with my wife, [but] he said I was too young to hang up my chalk and that I must come teach.
“And when [Grey High School principal] Mr [Neil] Crawford called, there was just no competition between teaching and washing dishes, so I came over.”
Andrew has already accepted a temporary post at Victoria Park High School for three months next year.