Choosing education as a career and spending most of his life living out this passion at Bokmakierie Primary School, “was almost as if it was pre-determined for me”.
So says principal Larry Lewis, 64, who is retiring at the end of the term, after 41 years at the school.
With no teachers in his family, he reckons the best explanation for how he came to be one is that the Hewatt College of Education was opposite his high school, Alexander Sinton.
“In my teens, I used to play soccer against the youths from Bokmakierie. My father also sold and delivered hampers in Bokmakierie.
“In my final year of studies, I already secured a post at Alexander Sinton for the next year. However, I lived closer to Bokmakierie Primary, and John Thomas, a former lecturer, convinced me to rather work here. I specialised in physical education.
“At that stage, it was an Afrikaans-medium school, and I didn’t do Afrikaans. I did my
two-week practice teaching here, and, even
at that stage, I said, ‘No, I am not taking the
post at Bokmakierie.’ Up until this day, I don’t know what made me change my mind,” Mr Lewis said.
He has no regrets, though.
Mr Lewis started as a PE teacher, and eight years later, was appointed the head of department.
Thereafter, he held the acting principal role for two years, before being appointed as principal in 1994.
When asked what he would miss the most, Mr Lewis said: “I will miss everything – the
interaction with the teachers, and I’ll especially miss the children. I was a starter for 20 years
(at the athletics). I was involved with school
sport all the time. I didn’t pass on that duty
to others. When the children were with me, people knew they were off the street and out of danger.”
Mr Lewis hopes that the staff – especially the new staff members – will follow the example he set.
He added that he had always been guided by “positive values”.
He also appealed to the community to take ownership of the school, which has been described as a beacon of hope for that community.
“Education is the key to get out of poverty, and the school needs to be kept in a good state so that many future generations can benefit from it,” Mr Lewis said.
He has no immediate plans for the future and joked that boredom at home might inspire him to take on a project. In the meantime, he will be busy “tying up” some of the projects he started at the school.