Downeville Primary School is a beacon of hope for Manenberg, the school’s governing body chairman, Faizel Momberg, told parents, pupils and staff at a weekend function to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
There was entertainment, inspiration and cheer as those linked to Downeville Primary gathered at Manenberg High School’s hall on Saturday September 17 to mark the special occasion.
Mr Momberg, a former pupil, said despite the challenges faced by teachers and pupils because of the “crime element”, he was confident in the staff’s ability to give pupils the best opportunities.
“A lot of people don’t want to be associated with Manenberg, and that is sad. However, I have never come across anybody who attended Downeville Primary and is now afraid to acknowledge that. All the former pupils I have come across are proud to be associated with the school. It is our responsibility to continue that tradition and even improve on it. We thank our predecessors for a job well done, and also those who are continuing the good work. Our foundation is strong,” Mr Momberg said.
Former pupil Washiela Isaacs said she was also proud to be a “product of this school”.
She described principal Ed-mund Treu as a father figure to her and thousands of others.
“I value the education I received, and my former teachers played a big role in my life. For that, I would like to thank you. There is no way I’d be able to repay you for your generosity, kindness and love.
“I have no words to express my appreciation for all you’ve done for me and my family,” Ms Isaacs said.
Between the speeches, the audience was spoiled for choice with the talents of current and former pupils, who sang, danced and recited poetry.
Among them was former pupil Aziza Davids, who, together with Chadwin Nel, 16, blew the crowd away with her singing and rap abilities.
Candles were also lit in memory of all those who had died.
Two representatives from the Grade 7 class of 1995, Charles Manuel and Denise Brander, also addressed the audience.
This class has maintained contact through social media platforms and, not too long ago, they visited the school to present party packets to the pupils,as their way of “giving back”.
Speaking to the pupils, Mr Manuel said: “We also sat in the same benches where you now sit. Who we are today is because of our teachers. Our teachers went through tough times. They had to deal with bullets flying all around them, but, despite this, they never gave up. For that, I salute them. I would like to encourage all the pupils to reach for the stars,” Mr Manuel said.
Mr Momberg echoed Mr Manuel’s sentiments, saying teachers had not resigned en masse, despite the gang violence in the area. “Our school did not crumble, even under difficult circumstances. Teachers did not throw their hands up in despair. We have not thrown in the towel. Teachers diligently came to work everyday. That must be a sign that we are on a right path,” he said.
Mr Treu said support from staff and parents had made his job as the school’s principal for the past 19 years that much easier.
The school, he added, was celebrating a triple milestone: its 40th, Manenberg 50th and his recent 60th birthday.
“To the pupils, you have the potential to grow way beyond what you can imagine.
“I want to thank the parents – especially those that sometimes come to my office to say a prayer for me. It uplifts my soul. I am so grateful that I have the whole community here supporting me today. Thank you, Downeville. You are world famous, international stars. If there’s one birthday gift you can give me, it is to pray for one another and for Manenberg,” Mr Treu said.
He also paid tribute to his mother, Rosie Treu, 89, who was sitting in the audience.
After the programme, the children and their parents were treated to hot dogs, party packs, akhni and cold drinks.