Mohammed Tikly obituary

Other Lives: South African educator who was active in the liberation struggle while in exile in London

My father, Mohammed Tikly, who has died aged 80, was a respected educator in South Africa and the UK and a veteran of the South African liberation struggle. In 1964 he participated in a seven-day hunger strike outside South Africa House in central London along with other ANC comrades to draw attention to the Rivonia trial of anti-apartheid freedom fighters, including Nelson Mandela, taking place at the time. It was partly on account of the international attention raised by efforts such as theirs that Mandela received a jail rather than a capital sentence.

While still in exile in London, and working as a teacher, in 1979 Mohammed helped to found the Multicultural Curriculum Advisory Group under what was then the Inner London Education Authority. The aim of the group, the first of its kind, was to support schools to develop teaching approaches that reflected diversity.

In 1982 the ANC asked Mohammed to take on the directorship of the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (Somafco), in Mazimbu, Tanzania, which catered for the students who had to flee South Africa in the wake of the Soweto uprising in 1976. The school was significant in its development of a future South African education system.

Mohammed Tikly, left, with Oliver Tambo, then president of the ANC, inspecting maize at the farm at Somafco in Mazimbu, Tanzania, in 1984.
Mohammed Tikly, left, with Oliver Tambo, president of the ANC, inspecting maize at the farm at Somafco in Mazimbu, Tanzania, in 1984. Photograph: ANC Archives/Eli Weinberg Photolab

Born in Pietersburg (now Polokwane) in Limpopo province in South Africa, Mohammed was the son of Abdul Hamid, a trader, and Amina (nee Saloojee). She suffered from severe epilepsy and died when Mohammed was young. Growing up with his four sisters during the apartheid era, he attended the Johannesburg Indian high school, where he became politicised. In 1959 he came to Ireland to study medicine at Trinity College Dublin, but after two years moved to London to be more involved in the liberation struggle. While there, he met a fellow activist, Clare Reid, a maths teacher. They married in 1964 and had four children together, but divorced in 1995 following a long separation.

Mohammed completed a sociology degree at Middlesex Polytechnic in 1969. He then started teaching at London comprehensives including William Penn School, Archway school and Islington 6th-form centre, while completing his PGCE. In 1979 he stopped teaching to found the Multicultural Curriculum Advisory Group, having completed a diploma in multicultural education at Middlesex that same year.

After his period at Somafco, in 1985 Mohammed moved to Lusaka to work at the ANC head office before returning to South Africa following the release of Mandela in 1990. Two years later he was asked to head the Batlagae Trust (Batlagae means “those who have come home” in Tswana) established in Johannesburg to assist with the reintegration of student exiles. He then worked in the national education department in Pretoria until 2000, when he retired. In 2017, Mohammed was awarded the Order of Luthuli in silver for his services to the liberation struggle.

Dad was a modest, kind and gentle man who lived by his principles. Outside of politics, he enjoyed spending time with his family, and watching cricket, football and tennis.

He is survived by his four children, Anna-Zohra, Ruweida, Adam and me, and seven grandchildren.

Leon Tikly

The GuardianTramp

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