ISBN 9781920033835
Pages 242
Dimensions 229 x 152mm
Published 2022
Publisher NISC (Pty) Ltd, South Africa
Format Paperback

Treading a Delicate Tightrope

A principal balancing between education and political change during turbulent

by Mike Burton

When Mike Burton became the principal of All Saints College in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa, little did he know about the journey on which he was embarking.

Very soon after taking up the position, Mike realised that the vision of the founding organisation was becoming irrelevant as education and politics converged, reaching a crisis point in the second half of the 1980s. Mike found himself walking the tightrope between the expectations of the funders on the one hand and those of the students and community on the other.

Matters reached a tipping point and Mike had to make a decision. As 'Comrade Mike' he elected that the interests of the students and the community take precedence. Mike chose education AND liberation.

Mike Burton's Tightrope is a gripping, personal account that transports the reader back to the liberation struggle of the 1980s and the educational issues that informed policy in the nascent democracy. The book will be of particular interest to those involved in education at the time as well anybody who observed or was engaged during that turbulent period of change.

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"Mike Burton's leadership must truly be remembered as one of the markers on the course of doing at times the impossible, viz. to teach excellently as well as to struggle with conviction"


"[Mike Burton's story] is a reminder of why so many people supported the new regime and its education initiatives with such dedication and enthusiasm. It was the dawn of a new era, filled with hope and optimism. And it is good to be reminded of that during current times."


About the Author

Mike Burton

Mike Burton was born in Bulawayo in 1944 and he grew up and schooled in the erstwhile Rhodesia. He qualified as a teacher at Rhodes University and went on to study further at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. From Oxford, Mike returned to teach in Rhodesia and was welcomed back to a raging bush war. With their three young children he and his wife, Noreen, decided to settle in South Africa where they both taught at St Peter's in Rivonia and then at Kingswood College in Grahamstown (now Makhanda). On the cricket field he was selected for the South African Schools XI and went on to play for Eastern Province when a student at Rhodes, and captained Oxford University. Mike is the author of a well-received series of Geography textbooks for secondary schools. Currently, he works with a small company of retired educators supporting rural and township schools around East London in South Africa's Eastern Cape province.