Bonteheuwel High School hosted a special ceremony in honour of the late anti-apartheid activist and politician, Ahmed Kathrada, on the day he would have celebrated his 89th birthday, on Tuesday August 21.
The former minister chose to celebrate his 87th birthday with Bonteheuwel High School in 2016. He died before he could celebrate his 88th birthday last year.
Dr Lionel Scott-Muller, the director of the Ashley Kriel Skills Development Centre, reminded the pupils of this when he addressed them during the ceremony.
“When Mr Kathrada was asked where he would like to celebrate his 87th birthday, he could have chosen to do so anywhere in South Africa, but he chose Bonteheuwel High. Also, when someone asked him what he missed most when he was incarcerated, he said he missed the voices of children the most,” Dr Scott-Muller said.
He added that Bonteheuwel High School had a rich history.
“Ashley Kriel, another anti-apartheid activist, is a former pupil of Bonteheuwel High School. At this school we want more activists. There are people from this student body who are already making a difference. This school is renowned for shaping young people’s minds and cultivating talent. There are those among you who are showing signs of leadership. Now I want you to ask yourself, how you can become a change agent in your community. I won’t be surprised if one of you become president one day,” Dr Scott-Muller said.
Film-maker Nadine Cloete said her relationship with Bonteheuwel High started with the making of Action Kommandant, her documentary about Ashley Kriel.
“Uncle Kathy’s foundation (the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation), was also one of the first to contribute financially towards the making of the film. At one stage I asked uncle Kathy’s advice about how we can solve political problems. He told me that all problems must be resolved in a democratic way – to work as a collective and to take civil action. He was a presence for students of the Fees Must Fall campaign. He was never too young or too old to make changes. He was an amazing icon,” Ms Cloete said.
Principal Nicola Pather said by hosting an event like this, they are hoping to conscientise the youth to become active citizens and to “take their rightful place in society”.
“As teachers our role is to inspire confidence in our youth, and I would like to encourage other schools to start history clubs, like we used to have in the old days. Yes, it’s a different society we live in with different problems we have to face, but if we don’t do it, who will? We have to be the change as teachers,” Ms Pather said.
Grade 12 pupil, Noxolo Nongauza said: “This day is special. To know that one of our greatest icons came to our school to celebrate his birthday. I would not like history to repeat itself. I want everybody to be proud of our country and let South Africa rise above our obstacles.”
Her classmate, Nehemia Cassiem, said Mr Kathrada played a “big role in our history”.
He added: “Our democracy would not have been possible if it was not for people like him. Today we can enjoy our freedom, because of him. We do not have complete freedom in our country though, but the foundation Ahmed Kathrada built is solid, and we must build on that to carry forth our fight for freedom.”