Mev. Bastable This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

June 1, 2011
By , Oshkosh, WI
“Dumela,” “Sawubona,” “Goeie More,” and “Good Day,” she says slightly out of breath. She has just bounded through the classroom door laden with parcels of homemade chocolates, greeting cards and her latest knitting project in one hand, the other holds our Afrikaans trial exams papers. These papers would determine whether or not we went to university. The look of concern on her face told us all what we needed to know: we did not do very well.

In our class everyone deserved to be there. The class was too full but more room was made for the extras. Mev. Bastable would not have any of her students leave her class. Mev. Bastable never left anyone behind yet she was a very busy person. She made and sold irresistible chocolates to raise money for our schools Interact club. She sold handcrafted greeting cards and knitted warm woolen blankets for orphaned children.

She would sit on her Winnie the Pooh stool and animate our novels for us. Not a page went by without her jumping up and acting out a line from Paljas – her chicken interpretation made us laugh the rest of the day. Her aged blue eyes would bring to life the tension in the play and at the same time show us her tenderness. Her wrinkles suggested she was ancient but the life of her poetry telling suggested otherwise. Each line was read with enthusiasm and thought with careful emphasis on words that were most noteworthy so that the poetry was understandable.

One hot and humid Friday afternoon we were sick of school and we were drifting off to sleep during her class. She made us stand up and sing “Ek is op wakker en entusiaties”, which means “I am awake and enthusiastic”, while we flung our arms about. Each time we repeated the song we sang faster and had to leave words out. By the end we were in stitches of laughter and feeling much better, after that day there was never a dull day in Afrikaans.

Whenever we would learn about a poem Mev. Bastable would tell us stories about people or things that had happened to her. She has been through many trying times in her life. Before she had her first child she suffered through five miscarriages, for one she had to carry her dead child for two weeks before the doctors would remove it. We were in tears when she told us this but she held her head up and pushed on with strength. She wanted us to know life’s challenges and that there is always a reason to continue living.

Mev. Bastable referred to leaving school as labour. In school we are cared for, told what to do and when to do it. Each day was planned for us and we are protected from the dangers of the real world just like a baby in its mother’s uterus. Once we had written our final exams we were no longer Girls High ladies, we were women of the real world and Mev. Bastable made sure we were prepared to handle it. She worked hard with us to improve our marks, taught us tricks to remembering tense rules and encouraging excellence and depth to our creative writing assignments. We spent countless hours going through common errors, she volunteered countless more after school time. She never took a day off school – ever.

When we got our marks back for that trials exam paper we were all disappointed, all our hard work just to get an average result. Trials were supposed to be the most difficult exams we would ever write and the proof was in our results but Mev. Bastable had faith in us. We worked harder than ever. We went to extra classes on weekends did double the amount of homework and revised every chance we got. With her guidance we achieved the best results of our entire school careers for Afrikaans and her look of disappointment turned into that of pride.

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