From pranks to glory

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EXECUTIVE director of the Independent Quality Assurance Agency and educator, Michael Hosty, was not the perfect student when he was at school, but was inspired by a teacher who took him, and his rag-tag friends, under his wing and gave them the opportunity to be successful.

HOSTY’S SCHOOL DAYS: Michael Hosty, left, gave his perspective on the South African educational system, and an inspirational and amusing recounting of his own school days at the U3A last week. U3A chairman Ivo Chunnett presented Hosty with a small token of the society’s appreciation Picture: ROB KNOWLES

This began Hosty’s presentation, “2 teach is 2 touch lives 4 ever”, held at the U3A meeting at Don Powis Hall in Settlers Park last Thursday.

“The state of the South African educational system can be summed up in one word,” said Hosty. “Crisis. Of the 25 000 schools in South Africa, we have 13-million school children, and 450 000 teachers. Most of these teachers work for the love of the work, for the pleasure and fulfilment of being a teacher.”

“When schoolchildren were asked to name the key factors of an exemplary teacher, you would think they would mention skills and knowledge as primary factors, but they did not,” Hosty explained. “They were more interested in the qualities of the person. They all said that the best teachers were those that inspired.”

For the last few years Hosty has been working on quality assurance as a mentor and evaluator. His job is to assess teachers and their methods in order to improve performance.

“We work with the whole school, teachers, pupils and parents,” said Hosty.

“A St Andrews teacher, at the end of every week, would ask his pupils how he had done that week, and where he might improve. The man was a former businessman who gave it all up because of his passion for teaching. Or the teacher in Cape St Francis would take her pupils out into the nearby forest and get them to write poetry each afternoon. It was an eye-opener as to how much work these teachers did for their pupils.”

Hosty mentioned an anecdote from Zimbabwe. “This lady worked as a cleaner at the Drosty Shop and was not a teacher. She formed a study group with local schoolkids in the church, and the kids would come into the Drosty Shop to show her their progress. This is inspirational.”

Hosty said he had attended St George’s College in Harare. “I was expelled from nursery school when I placed a shongolo in another child’s sandwich,” he confessed.

“St George’s was just a playground for pranksters like me. While most people used to take seven or eight GCE O-Levels (British system) and later two A-Levels, I received just one O-Level. In fact, all my mates together didn’t reach double figures. My parents were so disappointed.”

He entered the fifth form where the pupils were expected to “redo” their O-Levels, and this is where things spiralled out of control. He explained further.

“We had a French teacher who had, foolishly, left her little car in the car park of the school. We picked it up and carried it up the school steps, intending to place it in the hall where a dance would take place. When we reached the top of the steps we dropped it and it bounced down the stairway back into the car park.”

Hosty and his cohorts were suspended from French class after the incident.

In another prank, they pushed the headmaster’s Landrover out of the way and replaced it with a model vehicle of the same type. Unfortunately, the “Landy” rolled right into a tractor.

Everything came to a head when the boys were found smoking in the confessional. “Because the old priest would smoke, we thought it was the perfect place until one of us walked out into the church with a cigarette in his hand.”

On the verge of being expelled, a young teacher, “Doc”, stepped in and took personal charge of the boys’ education.

“He believed in us boys, and he vouched for us,” said Hosty. “He took us to Mozambique on a boat which he made us scrub for days before we set off. It took us three weeks, and he told us it would be tough and that we had to work to have a good time. He loved us and had a passion for this motley crew.”

Hosty’s stories were both amusing and inspirational. After their return, the boys dug in and studied. They became successful in their own right, with a businessman, two professors, a banker and three doctorates between them.

“Some teachers may do more harm than good, but so many are doing so much good,” Hosty concluded.

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