The School Gates by Fiona Snyckers

Cancelled 2

Fi’s book launch for her fabulous book The School Gates was supposed to be held yesterday, it has sadly been cancelled due to the latest lockdown 4.3576B section 2. The book deals with the private school gang so I asked Fi about her thoughts of schooling during a pandemic and what she had to say really resonated with me:

I wrote The School Gates before the Covid pandemic was even a twinkle in a Wuhan bat’s eye but edited it in the middle of lockdown last year. I couldn’t help contrasting the high-pressure private school life my book describes with the online school situation that descended on us all. A number of interesting facts emerged from online schooling that might never have been known without that particular experiment. 

Fact number one – children do much, much better with face-to-face learning than they do online. Fact number two – the overwhelming majority of children WANT to be at school. It has been a cliché for too long that children hate school and will do anything to avoid it. Online schooling showed us how false this is.

The School Gates Back

The third point cannot be described as a fact, it is more of a personal observation. It was an interesting experiment to press pause on the endless round of academics, sport, and extramurals that dominated our lives as a family for so many years. Suddenly, it didn’t matter whether your child made the first team for rugby or netball because NO ONE’s child did. Suddenly, we were all sitting at home all day, rather than racing around dropping and fetching children from extramurals all afternoon. And on weekends, school just … stopped.

For us, it was a necessary chance to reset our priorities, to reconnect with each other, and to enjoy taking our feet off the gas for a while. Going back to in-person school was a relief, as it was for families all over the world, but some of the lessons of lockdown stayed with us.

Childhood is short and precious. The overscheduling of very young children robs them of their freedom and the whole family of stress-free time together.

I hope it’s a lesson we don’t soon forget.


I interviewed Fi about her favourite places before this latest lockdown, the restaurants are not currently open for sit down meals and shem, you can only drool over her booze recommendations, but there’s nothing to stop you buying take aways. In fact, I actively encourage everyone to buy take aways and enough coffee to have you bouncing off the walls. SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL RESTAURANTS, post about them on social media. Please. The industry is really suffering.

Fi and The School Gates
Fi and The School Gates

Favourite restaurants in Joburg?

I love Bellagio (Italian) and Parea (Greek)

Favourite coffee shops?


Favourite wine/gin/whisky?

Wine – Haute Cabriere Chardonnay / Pinot Noir blend

Gin – Bombay Sapphire

Favourite deli?

Bagel Zone

Love Books

Favourite bookshops?

Love Books in Melville and Bikini Books in Gordon’s Bay

Favourite TV shows?

The Office, The Mindy Project, Shetland

Favourite gyms/hikes/yoga studios/swimming pools?

What is this ‘hiking’ you speak of? 😊

Favourite beauty salons?

Studio 113

I used to love Soho in Sandton City. Looking forward to going back there when we are all vaccinated.

Favourite hairdresser?

Jessie at Studio 113 in Parkmore

Tell us your favourite place(s) to go on holiday in Southern Africa. What is it you love so much about the particular region/resort?

For a beach holiday, I love the KZN South Coast. Glenmore Beach has wonderful swimming. I love Gordon’s Bay and Hermanus for their offbeat charm.

Favourite mode of travel? Roadtrips/rail/bus/plane/private jet 😊

I love trains. It’s a very relaxing mode of travel. I find it conducive to writing.

Favourite reads for the hols?

If Gail Schimmel or Qarnita Loxton have a new book out, I’m sorted for the holidays.

The School Gates Front

What is the new book about?

It’s about a professional dancer who moves to a small town on the KZN North Coast to recover from burn-out. She gets a job teaching dancing at a private school and thinks her problems are over. But thanks to the local interfering parents, she finds her problems are only just beginning.

Explain your writing process for this book. What kind of research did you have to do for it? How many words do you write a day/week? Do you write at home/coffee shops?

For this particular book, my research consisted of living the experience in glorious technicolour as a private school mom (bwahahahahahaha!!). I also chatted to friends with kids at other schools and added a spoonful of humorous hyperbole. I aim for 2000 words a day, five days a week. I write at home.

Where can fans get your book? Are there signed copies available?

It will be available in all good bookshops. Love Books will probably carry some signed copies, or you can contact the publisher Modjaji Books directly.

Fi signing books at fave spot Love Books
Fi signing books at fave spot Love Books

Favourite piece of writing advice?

Read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing.

What’s next for you? What are you busy working on at the moment?

I am trying to secure an agent to sell a domestic noir novel into the US market for me. Fingers crossed!

Thank you so much for taking part in Friday reads! I highly recommend The School Gates. Go forth and buy/order a copy for yourselves and one for a friend. Happy reading! xxx

Ps…Fi has just finished nursing her dad through a hectic bout of Covid, due to the fact that she was part of the J&J vaccine trial and had been jabbed eleven days before, she did not pick up the dreaded auntie Rona from her pa. Fi had this to say about it:

I tested negative three times in a row and never at any time developed symptoms. So, in case you are wondering whether vaccines really work and whether the J&J is really up to the job, I can tell you that it protected me like a forcefield from what was most likely the Delta variant, seeing as that is becoming the dominant strain in SA. I am ridiculously grateful to the scientists who developed the vaccine and to the thousands of people, like me, who trialled it for safety and efficacy.

Go, team J&J!

Fi being jabbed with JJ
Fi being jabbed with JJ

And HUGEST thank you from all of us to those of you who were part of the trial. VACCINES WORK. If you are over 50, please go and register for your vaccine NOW!