Vicki Bismilla

Country of Origin:

South Africa

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Story

I was born and raised in South Africa during the apartheid era. I am an Indian woman, hence in apartheid South Africa, I was born on the wrong side of the colour bar. Apartheid meant that all white people had rights to free government paid education and all non-whites did not. Whites were free to apply to all jobs, non-whites were restricted in what jobs they could have. There were 3 million whites 30 million black people, 3 million Indians and 3 million mixed race people. The 3 million whites had access to more than two major universities in each province while each of the non-white groups in the entire country had only one university, one medical school and one teacher training school for each ethnic group. Ethnic groups were not allowed to mix, mingle, meet or live in the same neighbourhoods. The best land, neighbourhoods, properties, beaches, parks etc. were allocated to white communities. All the non-white communities had to live in “group areas” for specific ethnic groups. This was called the Group Areas Act.

My earliest memories as a four year old child living in South Africa’s apartheid regime is as follows: In the middle of the night, once every month, the Gestapo-like secret Police would bang on our front door looking for my uncle who was working with the Indian Congress to protest against the government’s apartheid policies. The Indian Congress worked together with Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress but they were not allowed to be seen together because they were different ethnicities so they did the same work but separately. They were constantly harassed by the Secret Police and jailed often. My uncle was murdered in jail and we believe he was murdered by the Secret Police.

So in 1970 as young adults, just having completed our under-grad degrees, my husband and I married and left South Africa immediately to come to Canada. We were accepted with open arms in Canada and in only three months became Landed Immigrants and in three years became Canadian citizens. Canada has been very kind to us. We worked for the first two years, he as a shoe salesman and I as a telephone operator. In 1972, we both completed our Teacher Training programs and became teachers in Toronto. I went on to become a Principal, a Superintendent and now the Vice-President Academic and Chief Learning Officer at Centennial College.

Because of the scars that South Africa inflicted on us as non-whites, we regard Global Citizenship and Equity Principles as fundamental rights in a democracy. We have worked tirelessly to embed equity principles and competencies in all of our teaching assignments; and as an education leader I have worked to embed equity education everywhere I work.