Bridgetown primary school turns 70

Acting principal Ronald Campher, in front of the school.

Norma Road Primary School will celebrate its 70th birthday on Saturday with a high tea for pupils, friends, staff, and family of the school.

The school opened in 1949. Known at the time as the Athlone Q Township Zone B1 Primary School, it was in the army barracks in Kewtown. The late Lionel Wilkinson was the principal.

On August 9 1951, the school changed its name when it moved to its current premises in Norma Road, Bridgetown. The road was built to reach the school.

Pine Hurst had been the second choice for a name because of all the pine trees in the area.

The school was headed by George Cloete from 1968 to 1986 and then Jimmy Slingers from 1986 to 1997.

Junaid Darries became the principal in 1997, and held the post until 2011. Branmal Swartz took over until 2012 when Ronald Campher, the current acting principal, was appointed.

Mr Campher said the school served the victims of apartheid’s forced removals. He joined the teaching staff in 1983 as a Grade 5 teacher, and 16 years later he became the deputy principal.

The school now has 720 pupils from Silvertown, Bridgetown, Kewtown, Khayelitsha, Langa, Delft, Gugulethu, and Makaza.

The school operates on the principle that “Happy children learn better and faster.”

The school won the inter-school athletics in 2016 and 2017, and its under-13 soccer team won a recent five-a-side soccer tournament with its under-11 team taking second place.

The school also offers netball, chess, table tennis, arts and crafts, speech and drama, and Mandarin.

Mr Campher said there had been a growing acceptance of cultural diversity at the school over the years.

“Now all the races mix, and they even go for sleepovers at their friends’ places. It took a while for our pupils to adjust to different cultures, but now they do. They respect each other and are mindful of different religions.”

Last year, the school ranked first in the systemic examination among schools in the Bridgetown area.

The school has also developed partnerships abroad with teachers going to China to learn Mandarin in 2017. It also has exchange programmes with England and Nigeria.

Deputy principal Farieda Cameron believes a teacher must first understand a child’s background before expecting them to produce excellent results.

“Our kids hail from different backgrounds, but their results remain high because this is a family school. We focus on all aspects of the child. We make each child feel that they are important and that they belong. We encourage high results by making them feel confident about themselves first and work with them to achieve good marks.”

Past pupils had often returned to the school years later to look for their teachers, remembering the love and affection they had shown to them, she said.

“Our children miss that when they move on to high school because here we develop them holistically and make them feel relevant. We also host an annual concert which both pupil and parent look forward to so that they can see what their kids can do,” she said.

The school will be hosting a high tea to celebrate their 70th birthday on Saturday October 12 from 2pm to 5pm. For more information about the venue, call the school on 021 637 6900.