Athlone North Primary School’s principal, Beverley Daniels, was pleasantly surprised when her colleagues decorated the art room to represent a gala hall, in celebration of her 40th year in education.
An emotional Ms Daniels said she could not believe how everybody, including her husband, Fred Daniels, had kept the event a secret, and was very appreciative of the effort put into arranging a special lunch for her on Friday February 16.
“I really did not expect this. I had no idea this is happening. Not even my husband gave me a clue. This is a pleasant surprise. I treasure the staff. God had a plan for me, and he placed me here. I always said I will retire from Athlone North Primary. My 40th anniversary in education was a mixed bag of everything – from the afternoon classes to the bus boycotts,” Ms Daniels said.
Deputy principal Kenneth Swanepoel said the lunch was their way of showing Ms Daniels how much she was appreciated.
“When Ms Daniels came here, she came with a lot of new ideas. She did a lot to upgrade the school infrastructure. This room we are in, she transformed into a minor hall. Her office used to be a wash room, and then it was changed to a staff room, before being turned into offices. She also has a good relationship with the community. The school is being used by church groups and for madrassa classes. The revamping of the school is all in order to give a better education for our pupils,” Mr Swanepoel said.
Ms Daniels said her youthful dream was to be an air hostess. However, during apartheid, she was told that she could only be employed as a ground hostess, because of the colour of her skin.
“In those years, I finished a junior certificate (which was Standard 8 at the time). My friend encouraged me to do teaching, and, initially, I was not interested. I also didn’t want to be a nurse, and those were the only two options then.
“I started working at St George’s, which was a Christian school, helping out with administration and making tea. On weekends, I worked at a supermarket, and the money I earned there – R8 – I used only to buy shoes. I was 17 years old at the time, and the principal of St George’s School told me he would make sure that I became a teacher.
“Since then, I have taught at Bridgeville Primary, then for another 10 years at Rio Grande in Manenberg, and then I was acting principal at Primrose Park Primary for six months, before taking a up a post as the deputy principal at Welcome Primary. I have been at Athlone North Primary for eight years,” Ms Daniels said.
Despite it not being her first choice, Ms Daniels added that she had no regrets choosing the teaching profession. She said that before being a teacher, she had been an introvert, and now people had to stop her from talking. The one thing that stood out for her over the past 40 years, was the love she received from her pupils, she said.
“The children run to me to hug me. I do what I do for the love of the children. Some parents might not always agree with how I do things, but I do it in the interest of the pupils, and they are doing very well academically and when it comes to discipline. Our aim is to instil values and discipline, and I am proud of what our school has achieved. In last year’s systemic tests, our Grade 3 pupils achieved a 96%, and our Grade 6 results went up by 20%. People don’t expect children from this area to do well, but they have proven otherwise. I am also very grateful to my wonderful staff, and I want to thank them for all that they do. I also need to thank my husband for putting up with me when I put my school first and all the late nights doing school work. I also want to express my gratitude to my sister, Cheryl Carolus, who donated money to help upgrade the school.”