Dr Siva Moodley at the recent launch of his book, If Those Walls Could See.
Durban - The proposed Grade 9 general education certificate should be a door opening to the next level of education and not seen as an exit pass to get out of school. 

That is the opinion of Dr Siva Moodley, retired director of Unisa student affairs and teacher for many years. Moodley, 70, said if the correct structures were put in place to create technical and vocational streams, a great many pupils would benefit.

“Each TVET (technical vocational education and training) college needs to be attached to a cluster of schools and it would be made compulsory, so that the certificate would be seen as an entrance to the next level and not an exit.

“If the right resources and monitoring are put in place, it can be a success,” he said of the proposed system.

Having been born blind, Moodley knows all about dealing with difficult circumstances to create a path to success. Now living in Pretoria, he spent the first 30 years of his life in Mount Edgecombe, outside Durban, and still returns to the city whenever he can to spend time with family and friends.

Born into a family of eight siblings, of which three (including himself) were blind, Moodley said despite their poor circumstances, he had a wonderful childhood.

He was recently in Durban to launch his new book, If Those Walls Could See, which contains detail of his life at Arthur Blaxall School for the Blind in Pietermaritzburg and taking on life’s challenges as a blind person.

“We lived in the little village of Mount Edgecombe when there was still a lot of stigma associated with blindness and my mother came under fire for wanting us to go to school.

“My dad worked as a waiter at the Saccharin Hotel and it wasn’t easy, but for us every day was a party and life was generally excellent.”

He and a brother and sister attended Blaxall which started as a boarding school for the blind in Lorne Street, Durban, before moving to Pietermaritzburg in 1967.

“We had such an austere principal, but if you put a number of kids together, whether they are blind or not, those kids will have fun,” he said.

If Those Walls Could See is his second book, with his first being a novel based on growing up in Mount Edgecombe. This latest book is factual and opens with how blind people have been treated through the ages and how they started to read and write despite their disability.

He details how the KZN Blind and Deaf Society started as the Natal Blind Society, before he moves on to the major part of the book with amusing anecdotes about life at boarding school.

“My first novel focused on my family, my mother sending us to school and how the community reacted. I think it set the scene for this book as some of my contemporaries asked me if I would write about those years at boarding school.

“I started researching at the beginning of the year. It took a lot of research for those first few chapters, with the anecdotes being easier,” he said.

“Being in a boarding school together for nine months of the year, you develop such a strong camaraderie,” he said, adding he was still in contact with many of those old friends.

When Moodley had completed a BA degree and qualified as a teacher, he found it difficult to find work in a government school.

“I received a letter saying I couldn’t be employed in the public service; that was frustrating after four years of training as a teacher,” he said.

So he became a switchboard operator at the Durban Club.

About a year later an opportunity came up to teach at Blaxall, where he became head of the English department, before moving to Pretoria to teach at a college for the blind.

He later moved to Unisa as a project leader, being promoted to manager and then director of student affairs. He has written chapters for textbooks and academic papers and, on retirement, he was asked to stay on at the college of education for a further three years to do research.

Married with three children, Moodley is happy to admit he is a “DIY guy” and enjoys doing electrical repairs and plumbing.

Now retired, Moodley downloads the newspapers every morning, as well as listening to daily podcasts and, last year, read 40 of the top 100 recommended books. Although being a fan of the classics such as Thomas Hardy, he added technology had “drastically changed the world” for blind people.

Independent On Saturday