Iris, 70, left home during Apartheid

  • London is a special place, and one thing is everyone here comments on the weather.
  • But let me tell you: once you accept and adapt to it, wear warm clothes and walk around with a smile on your face, doors open for you like nowhere else I have been.
  • I have been here since the 1970s, and since then I have managed to see many things. I realised this a bit late; as you can see I’m with a walking stick now which makes it more difficult. But not impossible.
  • I love my job… I would still be doing all that I can for it if I was stronger.
  • Are you familiar with apartheid? Back home, I was not allowed to study Radiography as it was deemed as ‘intelligent’ work.. this is Radiography, not even Radiotherapy. That was the world I lived in. As a young black woman, we were seen to be people who couldn’t do it.
  • Now I stand here today, with my qualification and years of work in Radiography and I am able to say that I did it and I am very good at it.
  • Inferiority has nothing to do with colour ..and has a lot to do with how hard you put your shoulder to wheel. I came here and black people were driving trains, but in South Africa that would never have been allowed. What is the difference?
  • But the thing that kills us is the thought of ourselves not being able to do it, because people tell us that we can’t.
  • People are awaiting to be told they are inferior and the worst is that they follow what they hear. It gives people an excuse to not try and make the most of themselves.
  • Not me though, no way, I have learned myself and taught people so much. I studied and a got a nuclear physics certification at Middlesex university. And it really did prove something to all the people at the time who truly believed that those of a certain ethnicity didn’t have the brain power to learn such things.
  • I still teach English to people who come here from my country to learn. I have so many kids who I give lessons to, because I want them to do well. And the teachers in school will ask them ‘Who taught you this’ and they would say ‘it was auntie Iris’

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