Celebrating their 40th anniversary this year, Heideveld Secondary School attributes their success to excellent teaching, dedicated staff, extra-mural activities, and committed pupils.
The school held a lunch on Wednesday July 25 for past pupils, principals, and teachers where the message was evident – it took team effort to get this far.
On July 18 1978, the school was handed over to the community of Heideveld by the Department of Education and Culture, which fell under the Department of Coloured Affairs and Penny Hendricks became the first principal with two deputies – Bonnie Charles Mackay and Lennie Jansen.
By the time the school opened it was already the start of the third term and was too late to enrol pupils so the department decided to transfer two Standard 5 classes (Grade 7) from Heideveld Primary School to occupy the building out of fear of vandalism.
The school registered about 400 Standard 6s (Grade 8s) and 200 Standard 7s (Grade 9s) in 1979 with a staff of 35 teachers, one secretary and five cleaners. The school’s main focus was mathematics, science, accounting, woodwork, and biology was compulsory. Today the school has 1 189 pupils.
Speaking to Mr Mackay, he said he remembers how gangsters would terrorise the school.
He said one day as a large group approached he gathered all the pupils and thought out a plan of action.
“I told them to pick up anything – bricks and stones – and once the group got nearer we threw it at them and they ran off and never came back. Some of them were even knocked over by cars on the N2,” he said.
Vanessa Marco, Grade 8, 10, and 12 English teacher, said the school was initially an Afrikaans-medium school but it now offers three home-based languages, including English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa.
She said with larger classes teaching has become more difficult and that is challenged even further by social ills such as drugs and gangsterism.
However, a big part of the school’s success, according to Ms Marco, is the variety of extra-mural activities that are offered such as hiking, the school’s steelband, basketball, softball, the school choir, the marimba band, and a debating society.
“The vision of our school and the dedication of the teachers play a big role. Teachers go beyond what is expected. Some pupils live with the teachers before an exam so that they are motivated and have a place to study,” she said.
The school also has a nutrition drive, which feeds any disadvantaged pupil or staff member.
Some of the challenges as mentioned by teacher Emmalda Fouldien, include the lack of interest from parents towards their children’s academics.
“We also have quite a few special needs learners who need more attention. You have different types of learners – the slow learner, the learner who needs a bit of attention, and the one who needs most of your attention.
“It is difficult for teachers to cope but we have always strived to do better. At the end of the day you play more roles than just a teacher,” she said.
Alumni of the school, Denise Nitsky, who was one of the pupils in the second group to start their high school career at Heideveld Secondary in 1979, said the school has produced succesful adults who are thriving in their careers and owe their achievements to their ex-teachers.
“Our teachers taught us how to type and I became a secretary. What you instilled in us as learners we have carried with us as adults. You taught us to read, about politics, and I still love reading today,” she said.
Alfonzo Page, who is also an alumni of the school, and now a legal adviser, said often when people achieve success in life, what they were used to is not good enough.
He said after attending a school on the Cape Flats some people prefer to send their children to schools in the wealthier suburbs therefore robbing the school of generational impact.
Mr Page also said teaching has become difficult because of the attitude and disrespect of pupils towards teachers.
“Schools play an integral part in a community, especially public schools because they improve the community and enhance the child’s welfare because many of them are not taken care of in their own homes. We need to make sure that we enhance, better equip, and resource our schools appropriately to deal with the social ills they have,” he said.
He said he remembers a day when his mathematics teacher threw a duster at him because he misbehaved.
“But today teachers cannot discipline children because they will hit you back. Teachers work in a strenuous environment and sometimes it is not conducive to their health but that is the reality and as alumni and parents we need to change that. But teaching is a calling, a passion and today we honour and salute and respect teachers,” he said.
William Meck, who has been principal of the school since 2002, said: “I am elated about the schools’ achievement and I thank God for giving us 40 years of teaching. Our school stands out among the rest because of our results, teachers and commitment, and extra-murals. I want to thank every role-player, we really appreciate what they have done, and they must keep it up.”