Sometime late last year Bob Newland sent an email to some of us asking if anyone could help with a schools project that ACTSA (Action for Southern Africa) had set up.
I used to be a teacher a long time ago in Comprehensive schools in London, Bristol and Oldham and so I volunteered. Glad I did.
The project that ACTSA had been working on was in conjunction with Halcyon International School, a private (ugh!) school in Marylebone. My task / role was to give a talk on what the London Recruits did and my personal involvement.
The students had been studying apartheid as part of their ACTSA history project so there was no need to explain in too much detail what apartheid was. Speaking with me was Chitra Karve, the chairperson of ACTSA, and former office organizer of the Anti- Apartheid Movement. Coordinating the discussion was ACTSA General Secretary Michael Buraimoh. We were to expect nine plus students but that grew to about twenty five plus three teachers!
I started by talking about the role of the apartheid state which controlled who you could fall in love with, where you could sit, where you could eat and drink etc. Then I began with my own and Sean Hosey’s story. I explained how we were recruited, what was in the suitcase, the near disaster of the leaflet bomb going off in my hand and the long fingernail that saved us (see chapter in the book). Some of the children were open –mouthed and when I glanced at one of the teachers she was too!
I then talked about the newspaper front page stories next day in both South Africa and Rhodesia as was. Then I explained about Sean’s arrest and detention next time he went out, his bravery under torture and refusal to testify against the ANC.
Chitra Karve gave a brilliant talk about the Anti-Apartheid Movement which stopped the rugby and cricket tours, the marches to the embassy and the boycott movements in general. We both stressed the importance of the Soviet Union and the crucial role of the South African Communist Party.
The students were very interested in the forth coming film and wanted to know the title so they could look out for its opening (over to you Gordon!) We had time for a short Q & A session before next lessons. Questions were interesting and varied and some were about the situation in South Africa now. Chitra and I tried to answer these as best we could, but stressing that the apartheid system has been dismantled and that was a tremendous victory.
ACTSA are keen to use recruits to help with their education packs that they produce for schools. I found the whole experience useful and rewarding. The reception from the students was positive and ACTSA is keen to use us again when schools finally reopen.
Thanks again to Bob, Chitra and Michael for giving me the opportunity. I do feel there is scope for further involvement once the film is out there.