Staff and pupils of Athwood Primary in Hanover Park were in a festive mood last Friday, when they celebrated the school’s 40th anniversary.
The pupils entertained the audience with song, dance, drumming and a skit, while former pupils and teachers gave speeches.
Although they are celebrating the school’s 40th anniversary, principal Evan Petersen said the school was actually 48 years old. It used to be known as Hanover Park South, and many people in the community had referred to it as the “plankie skool”.
During those years, the school was little more than a prefab building, hence its nickname. After eight years, it moved to its current premises and got a new name.
Shereen Jacobs taught at the school for her entire 43-year-long teaching career. She retired earlier this year.
“Mr Petersen is currently the 11th principal this school had over the years, and I’ve worked with all of them. Teaching is my passion,” she said.
“We have so many success stories from this school. To me, that stands out – that Athwood Primary produced successful, responsible people. One of our more recent pupils, Fatima Dolan, left us in Grade 7 to join the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls. She is currently a second-year medical student at the University of Pretoria. These success stories warm my heart.”
She also acknowledged parents who, she said, had worked tirelessly to stop the Western Cape Education Department from closing the school in 2012. At the time, the department had cited dwindling enrolment numbers and high levels of vandalism and theft as reasons for the closure.
The parents had spent their weekends at the school, keeping watch over it, and the department’s decision had been was overturned.
“I would like to acknowledge parents like Elsie De Bruyn, and Constance Dirk, who held meetings at the school on Saturdays and Sundays, and they are still very active at the school. I also have to give thanks to the Walking Bus ladies, the neighbourhood watch, and members of the Community Work Programme,” Ms Jacobs said.
“I am asking former pupils and parents and other stakeholders to get involved with the school, so that it would never have to face the threat of closure again.”
Natasha Dial, from Community Action towards a Safer Environment (CASE), is a former pupil and was one of the guest speakers.
“My husband and I are both from Hanover Park, and, against all odds, we rose above our circumstances. Former pupils are all proud to be associated with Athwood. My encouragement to you today, is to get up after you fall and to never forget what the teachers here instilled in you,” she told the pupils.
Pastor Salwyn Coetzee is also a former pupil.
“When you leave Athwood, you are not only prepared for high school, but you are prepared for life,” he said. “I am a pastor today because of the teaching I received here. I would like to thank all the teachers for what they have done for me. Athwood was my home, and the people here were my family. They taught us respect, discipline and order, and I will always be grateful for this foundation that was laid. I thank God for the role this school played in shaping me.”
Mr Petersen has been at the helm for three years now. He said the school was successful because of its staff.
“The teachers here are willing to take on big tasks – they don’t shy away from challenges. The former staff also laid a good foundation. It was also when the community stepped in to assist the school in 2012, that it just grew phenomenally. This inspired me. Our enrollment numbers are growing continuously, and we now have more than 600 pupils.
“We will be busy with many more projects to allow the school to even prosper more – on the sport front, culturally and academically.”
After the formalities, the pupils were treated to party packets and hot dogs.