by Daniel Gover
Thanks to the War in Vietnam, I became a high school teacher in Botswana, in southern Africa. It’s funny how some of the worst things in the world can lead to detours that turn out well. New York City was the only place in America that I ever heard of that deferred college students and teachers from the military draft. Bless their hearts. With over two million people, my hometown of Brooklyn may have been the largest Draft Board in the country. Several guys who went to college with me became public school teachers in the city. When I was burning out in graduate school, I almost joined the Peace Corps and went to India, but didn’t. Fortunately, the next year I learned of a volunteer teachers’ program in Africa. A guy I knew had taught at a high school in Botswana—Swaneng Hill School. It was started by a South African exile named Patrick van Rensburg who was prohibited from returning to his old country just across the border. His school had become a mecca for anti-apartheid activists, just my kind of place. I had learned of Apartheid, or racial separation in South Africa, as far back as when we read Cry, the Beloved Country in high school. I wrote a letter, got a job, sent the letter to my draft board and basically dared them to call me back from Botswana. Luckily, they didn’t.