Submitted by: Kath Kenyon Wimbush
I spent ten years living on the other side of the emigration fence. I left South Africa for London as a young teacher with one year’s experience and two suitcases. After the first year or so, I felt I had found my niche on this big rock called earth. Teachers earned decent salaries there and I could walk around alone at night, despite living in an area very close to a gangland.
But the years went by. I got married and had a son. And my outlook in life changed. We could afford a two-bedroom flat on the very edge of Greater London. Across the road, we had a different dialing code. We had a tiny garden. But nine months of the year it was too muddy to use.
I wanted my kids to run around barefoot without being asked if I could afford shoes.
I married an engineer and as a teacher, my salary was slightly higher than his. Yet we had no savings. Our mortgage and son’s nursery school fees consumed one salary. Living costs were very high as well as the other basic needs. The constant grey was getting to me. I had never even heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder. But it hit me hard. I wanted my kids to run around barefoot without being asked if I could afford shoes.
I wanted to smell the air after a proper Highveld storm. Hell, I wanted two kids. But the steep nursery school fees meant we could only afford one child within the four years before he was eligible for free state school. And the trauma of having him in a system where midwives are negatively judged for referring to obstetricians caused huge problems.
So, when I get asked why we came home? It is home. And it is beautiful.
I missed biltong and braaivleis and peppermint crisps. So we came back home. And we are intending to stay. My roots are here while my husbands are in Malawi. African soil soothes our souls completely. Yes, there are problems, but that is everywhere.
I have seen violence globally. The UK gun laws make gun crime a tiny problem. But knife crime is rife. Our rape stats are horrific at 1 in 2 women. But it is 1 in 3 the UK. We just do not get told that. These are facts. Mugging happens a lot around there. In a class of 12 kids, only two had not been stopped and searched by cops. Racism is common there. It is just carefully swept under the carpets. When a professional cannot get a job in his field, so resorts to driving a bin truck simply because he is from Albania, you know there is a problem.
Teaching scared me. The amount of assessment was frightening. By year ten the kids were writing national exams within a month of starting the school year. And these were held every three months, with options to retake them for £20 a shot as often as you liked. The pressure on the kids was insane.
So, when I get asked why we came home? It is home. And it is beautiful. Our people are amazing, our culture is diverse, and our education is on the international bandwagon. Our state health care is not impressive, but not as much as we think.
Certainly, the hospital experiences I had there were terrifying. Filthy wards, poor patient care, risking patient life…. all these were in world-class London hospitals. Add to all this, I look at the current politics in the northern hemisphere and am quite happy to stay as far from playground bullies armed with nuclear weapons as possible.
For this #ImStaying fellas!