Bryanston High School Hair Policy, 40 years later
In 1971 after completing primary education at the state school Bryanston Primary I started high school at Bryanston High where I completed Standard 6 up until Standard 9 when I left, aged 15, to finish my education at Damelin. The reason I left with one year to go is because Bryanston High was, for me, a dreadful institution, governed by Neo Nazi Christian fascists who represented the qualities I recognised immediately as being most offensive in the human condition and who, to this day, remain the most odious bunch I have ever come across, primarily for abusing the great opportunity that educating the young represents. The best of them was Mr Bam, undoubtedly a world class teacher. The worst of them was the principal, Viviers, a mean spirited Afrikaner who harboured deep resentment towards the English and clung to a Religious Afrikaner belief system, predicated in a love of Rugby and a misplaced attachment to discipline. When one of the boys in my Standard 8 year wrote ‘Viviers is a Cunt‘ in bright green paint on the school wall, the entire school was kept standing in assembly until the culprit owned up. No one did. The next day the entire school stood all day again. Same outcome. The third day rumours spread that he culprit had been found. And had killed himself. You didn’t mess around with Viviers.
My memories of confrontation with this apocryphal vestibule of odium are many. So much so that eventually I walked out of Bryanston High never to return and had it not been for my mother paying school fees for me to attend the best Private School in South Africa in 1977, where for the first time I experienced professional unbiased tuition motivated solely by the desire to educate rather than indoctrinate, I would not have been able to complete my education within the state system. One of the last straws in my relationship with this Headmaster Vivier’s came on the day of the hair inspection and it is the article on the BBC today about a Hair Inspection at Bryanston High, 40 years later, that shows how little has changed. The BBC article is Here
Below is the hair inspection extract from my book The Emergency Bouzouki Player along with my congratulations to Dylan Reynders and to his Mother for supporting his decision.
The Principal of Bryanston High School, Mnr. Viviers, was a sour-faced Afrikaner in his mid-forties who spoke English as if it caused him physical pain. His appointment seemed to me more an opportunity for the Afrikaner to take revenge on the English than to advance any educational agenda.
An outstanding example of Principal Viviers’ ingrained meanness of spirit came one Wednesday morning before the day’s assembly when it was announced that there was to be a surprise hair inspection, something which had never happened before. This involved each boy being scrutinised as they filed into the hall by the examining teacher who placed a finger above the top of the child’s ear. If the hair touched or extended over the teacher’s finger that child was sent to the ‘failed’ group. By the end of this exercise, of the 500-odd boys who attended Bryanston High only one had passed the test. Johannes van Schalkwyk, an Afrikaans boy who was the proud possessor of a dog-bowl haircut, stood alone as having conformed to the previously unenforced regulation. Principal Viviers announced gloatingly from his pulpit that the punishment for boys breaking the hair code law was a caning. “Four of the best!” he intoned with lascivious relish in his thick Afrikaans accented English.
During the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer as was required on a daily basis, the phrase ‘as we forgive those who trespass against us’ sounded particularly sibilant that day as it came out of the mouths of those still inclined to repeat it. We were instructed to make our way after assembly in an orderly line to the Principal’s office where we were expected to bend over and receive our four strokes of the cane. By 11 o’clock that morning no lessons had started at Bryanston High School. Instead, all educational resources were directed towards one objective; the dubiously motivated assault by one bitter individual on the buttocks of 499 of the 500 young male pupils placed in his care. I was 15 at the time and felt incensed by what I considered to be a disgusting abuse of office for apparently homo-erotic gratification by as nasty a piece of work as I had yet encountered. Certainly Principal Viviers did little to disavow me of the growing impression that Afrikaners in general were a base and vicious lot, drawn to serve the darkest impulses under the guise of Christian moral rectitude. I never joined the beating line as directed, deciding instead to walk home as quickly as possible rather than spend the day waiting in a queue to offer my 15 year-old posterior to be beaten with a cane by a grown man with lustful intentions. He would have to make do with only 498 bottoms on this day.
The Emergency Bouzouki Player is the biggest selling book of South Africa’s War or Apartheid, the Border War, outside of South Africa.