'In one of my classes in the college there were two girls who sat together; one girl 's name was Marvelous, the other one was Wonderful'

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'In one of my classes in the college there were two girls who sat together; one girl 's name was Marvelous, the other one was Wonderful'


Frank remembers teaching in Swaziland.


Frank Gaynor


Trinity College Dublin




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Frank Gaynor

Is Part Of

Marriage and Family


Life Story

Spatial Coverage

Swaziland, Africa

Temporal Coverage


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By January 1978 I had an ODA contract lined up for a teaching post in Swaziland. As this was my first contract directly with ODA I was asked to go on a preparation/ orientation course before travelling to Swaziland. This resulted in me spending a pleasant and interesting, if somewhat unnecessary, week at Farnham castle in Surrey, hearing all about the challenges of adapting to living in Africa. Unlike me most people on the course were going to Africa for the first time. As the week progressed I came to the conclusion that quite a few of them were as relieved to be getting away from something as they were excited about going to something. In some cases it was an unsatisfactory work situation, for others it was difficult relatives or in - laws, and for a few it was the hope that their marriage would benefit from a move to a different country. I travelled out alone on 1st March 1978. The long flight to Johannesburg was uneventful; the short flight to Matsapa airport in Swaziland was a bit more exciting. With no radar to guide him into Matsapa the pilot was relying on what he could see from his seat in the cockpit of the small aircraft. On this afternoon he could see very little because of dense clouds. He circled the airport area four times before he dived through a hole in the clouds and brought us safely down the runway. I was recruited to teach maths in a secondary school. By the time I reached Swaziland I had been seconded by the Ministry of Education to Swaziland College of Technology (SCOT) to assist with the training of technical and commercial teachers. I was pleased with this move as it involved some work outside the classroom. SCOT had a staff of 80, and 40 of these were expatriates. Teaching methods in the department where I worked were very traditional, and the lecturers, mainly British, were in no mood for change. After a few months I got involved in writing some materials for a commercial arithmetic course. My work caught the attention of John Hay, who was then Senior Inspector of Maths, based in the Ministry of Education. Following a meeting with John I was transferred to William Pitcher Teachers College in Manzini. I understood that I would be assisting with the training of secondary school teachers. I was surprised when the college Deputy Principal, Mr Vilakazi, insisted that I join the primary maths section and assist two Swazi lecturers with primary maths methodology. I hadn't given primary maths much thought since leaving Johnstown primary school in 1955. When an ODA consultant visited William Pitcher shortly after my arrival I discussed my posting with him. He quickly told me that it was up to me to sort out any difficulties I had with the college. For the next four years I was an enthusiastic lecturer in primary maths, and I loved it. I was warmly welcomed to the primary maths office by the two Swazi lecturers there, Tim and Jeanne. They were very helpful in getting me started. They suggested that I read some books they had in the office on the work of the Swiss psychologist, Jean Piaget, who became renowned for his model of child development and learning. I soon found myself expounding with confidence on his different stages of development. We worked very well together and became great friends as we did some team teaching in the classrooms and co - presented at workshops for head teachers and teacher leaders. We worked together as equals in a way that did not seem possible in Malawi. Swaziland was the perfect size, and Manzini was the perfect location for running one - day workshops; it was possible for teachers to come from all parts of the country and return home at the end of the day. Jeanne also introduced me to the Primary Curriculum Unit (PCU) which was close to the college. After some time we were spending two half days per week in the PCU assisting with the writing of teachers' guides. I now cringe when I think of the prescriptive and longwinded nature of these guides. The PCU was directed and managed by personnel from Michigan State University. Also on campus was an office where maths materials for secondary schools were produced. This office was managed by Ted, who was on a British Council contract. Ted's many interests included cricket, golf, photography and birds. While he was frequently distracted by his interests outside the college, Ted was capable of getting through a lot of work in a very short time. I spent some interesting times working with Ted. For printing the materials we relied on a couple of Gestetner machines that had seen better days. We relied on a technician from Nelspruit, in South Africa, to help keep the machines in working order. One afternoon we were expecting the technician to arrive but both Ted and me were going to be away from the office. I asked Maria, who was our assistant in the office, to be there when the technician called. The next morning I met with Maria and asked her about the technician's visit. Our conversation went roughly as follows: What did he say? He said that the machine is not working. Did he say why it is not working? He said it is not good. Maria, can you tell me exactly what he said? At this point Maria looked down at her feet and said: 'He said it is completely fucked'. In one of my classes in the college there were two girls who sat together; one girl's name was Marvellous, the other one was Wonderful. I always had some difficulty with names. When I would say 'Now Marvellous, would you like to .....' I sometimes got the reply 'I am not Marvellous, I am Wonderful'. One very hot sunny morning I observed one of the students teaching an English lesson. Because of the heat the student had wisely decided to teach the lesson outside in the shade of a large mango tree. As I sat there, with the perspiration running down my face, arms and back, I was amused to hear the children chanting 'Here we go gathering nuts in May on a cold and frosty morning'. Our head of department was Doctor Dlamini. This name caused some confusion, especially with visitors to the college, as he was given the name Doctor at birth; it had no other meaning. The Principal of the college was also a Dlamini. After his house was broken into the police put the intruder into a cell at the local police station. While he was there the college Principal went to visit him every day. He used to wave his fist and shout at the prisoner through an iron grill, while telling him how he would beat him up as soon as he was released. Dlamini was such a common name in Swaziland that in most offices you would find one filing cabinet for the Dlaminis and another filing cabinet for all other names. The name Dlamini was linked to the royal family, and many Dlaminis were related in some way to the king. Authority in Swaziland flowed along two different lines. On one line authority was based on merit, as in the Civil Service. On the other line authority was based on how close the relationship was to the king. Where these lines crossed the royal connection was the winner. If, for example, the Director of Education had a secretary who was related to the king the balance of authority within that office could change hands depending on the situation. This resulted in a certain level of inefficiency, but overall the system worked better than I would have expected.


Irish Research Council for Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (IRCHSS)

Research Coordinator/P.I.

Dr Kathleen McTiernan (Trinity College Dublin)

Senior Research Associate

Dr Deirdre O'Donnell (Trinity College Dublin)


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