Eastern Cape veteran teacher Dr Ambrose Cato George: On His Own Terms


EASTERN CAPE’S veteran educator Ambrose Cato George became a teacher in 1965. In a teaching career, which spread over a period of more than 30 years, he gradually climbed the promotion ladder and eventually became a principal of a large comprehensive school in a sub-economic township, namely the Gelvandale Senior Secondary School in Gqeberha, Eastern Cape.

This post he carried out with success for 10 years. In 1994, South Africa and a new dispensation found him in the position of Inspector of Education.

He acted as supervisor for more than 50 high, primary and special schools. He played a significant role in the transformation and transition to one educational system and was instrumental in amalgamating schools from the previous educational departments.

He was forced to retire from his post because of clinical depression.

Although Ambrose was occupied full-time as an educationalist, he still found time to get involved in community activities.

Some of these activities included the following: he served as the executive of the Port Elizabeth Mental Health Society for many years: and he was involved with the Happydale School for Severely Mentally Handicapped children for more than 30 years.

The Port Elizabeth Mental Health Society honoured him in 1999 by being made an Honorary Life Member of the Society. For the last 16 years, he was chairman of the Management Committee of Happydale.

He was instrumental in starting a Depression Support Group in the Northern Areas in Port Elizabeth. He served as a member of the Management Committee at Happydale when his health allowed it.

He serves as a part-time lecturer at the Charlotte Searle Nursing College for a period of 15 years.

He lectured on Biochemistry, Biophysics, Education and Administration. He also lectured Physics and Chemistry to radiology students. He served on the Council of Charlotte Searle nursing College for many years.

Throughout his career, he was under regular medication and underwent mood swings, particularly depression at frequent intervals. He was very fortunate that for a period that stretched for almost 30 years, he was supported by the Port Elizabeth Mental Health Society.

They organized his visitation to see the state psychiatrist and to get a monthly supply of medication.

He found it important to monitor the early warning signs of mania and depression.

Throughout my suffering from mood swings, he found that various stressors, which were accompanied by severe stress, exacerbated my condition.

Much stigma, ignorance and denial exist concerning manic depression and stress hence the necessity for the following account and his autobiography which states his case on his own terms.

In 1962 due to the great oppression under the Nationalist Party, he was forced to enter the armed struggle as a member of the Yu Chi Chan Club (which was a subversive organisation led by Dr Neville Alexander).

He met political luminaries such as Advocate Albie Sachs, Advocate Fikile Bam, Cadre Ruth First, the poet Arthur Nortje, the stalwart George Botha and Comrade Dulcie September.

Now in the autumn of his years, he is taken up with writing about his life experience under apartheid, mental health matters and his autobiography.

It could be stated that in the life of Dr Ambrose Cato George PhD, he was recruited into a subversive organization as a student at UWC formerly known as Bush University, he was a scholar who studied at London University, Rhodes, UNISA, UWC, teacher, writer, a family man but there was disorder in his life when it came to his mood.

A wise and brilliant man, it still occupies his life.

George was born in South End, Gqeberha in 1944.

He holds the following academic qualifications: B.Sc. In Zoology and Botany (Unisa), Secondary Teacher’s Diploma-postgraduate (UWC), B.Ed. – distinction in Philosophy of Education (Unisa), Associate of the University of London Institute of Education (London) for the study: “The Educational Provision of the Mentally and Physically Handicapped in England and Wales and its possible application in South Africa”.

The M.Ed. Degree (Rhodes) with the thesis: “the London Missionary Society and Education: A Study of the Eastern Cape 1799 to 1852” as well as a Doctor of Philosophy degree (Rhodes) with the thesis: “A Mission and Five
Commissions: A Study of Some Aspects of the Educational work of the American Zulu Mission 1835-1910”.

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