Belgravia High School hosted an event to honour many of its former teachers and principals at its school hall.
The event, on Saturday March 26, was held to give recognition to the decades-long contributions of these stalwarts who raised the level of the school to where it is today.
There was a sense of excitement in the hall as the teachers, many of whom hadn’t seen one another for years, reminisced about days gone by, during the hour before the official start of the function.
According to the current principal, Andre Buis, Belgravia High had been known as a rough or “skollie” school during the 1950s.
“However, with the dedication and hard work of the teachers over the years, the school was patiently built up to be an institution of excellence in mathematics, science and technology,” Mr Buis added.
At the event, John Bekkers, one of three teachers from the 1950s era who were present, shared what the school was like after it was established in 1956. Mr Bekkers recalled how the school was first scattered over four locations in the Athlone area, before it moved into its own brick building in 1958.
Jasmine Nicolai (nee Balie), the first home economics teacher, reminisced about the occasion when the various satellite outposts moved to one building and the teachers became unified in their resolve to provide pupils with the best quality education possible.
Long-standing former principal, Toyer Arnold, who was also present, regaled the audience with tales of how the staff was united and managed to instil and sustain discipline.
Teachers like the legendary Freddie Britten and Gerard Pretorius used to attend the primary schools athletics meetings to identify the best athletes and then they would visit the local primary schools to encourage these young people to apply to Belgravia High School. This laid the foundation for Belgravia to become the top athletics school, especially in the 1980s. Returning by bus after an inter-school sports event the athletes used to dismount in Klipfontein Road and proceed in celebratory mode down Belgravia Road, back to the school with local residents joining in the throng that filled the road.
Another former teacher, Jamiel Toefy, recalled how young staff used to go out over weekends, sometimes partying right up to the Monday morning.
“Our socialising built our common spirit in uplifting the pupils,” he said.
Former teacher Bridgette Carelse recalled how she was regarded as a tough disciplinarian at the school but how the same pupils who vilified her back in the day, frequently contacted her to express their gratitude for the “tough love” that she had bestowed on them as it had played a positive role in them achieving success in life.
Edmund Bourne gave a music rendition of a Ray Charles classic, which was appreciated by all.
Regan Ford who was the master of ceremony on the day, recently left Belgravia after a 34-year tenure to occupy a subject advisory post at the Metro Central District Office.
One former teacher, Nicholas Van Rooi, even came from as far as Secunda for the event.
Mr Buis, who retires at the end of April, after 44 years of service of which 42 years were at Belgravia, handed out awards to all those present.
He said: “We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us and we honour them for their contributions.”