After 36 years of waking up early and getting ready to teach the pupils of Spes Bona High School, Sumaya Davids is putting down her chalk.
In total she has been a teacher for 38 years and is now looking forward to her retirement.
Ms Davids, from Upington, started teaching Afrikaans Home Language from Grades 10 to 12 at the school. “I started teaching at Spes Bona in 1980. I was a blushing bride of three weeks. I heard so many wonderful things about the school, wonderful results and I wanted to teach at the school,” said Ms Davids.
“It was a boys’ school at the time and I was a very strict teacher where you can’t even breathe in my classroom, but I got wonderful results,” she said.
In the late 1980s she was elected as the Head of Department (HOD) for Afrikaans Home Language.
Over the years the demographics in the area changed and the school decided to become a co-ed school accepting boys and girls.
This was a very big adjustment for Ms Davids and her colleagues as they were familiar with teaching boys only. When the girls arrived at the school Ms Davids switched over to teaching Afrikaans additional language which was difficult for her because she was Afrikaans-speaking.
“It was a very big adjustment for all of us; we were used to all the boys at the school. But it was a good thing, the girls showed the boys a softer side of life, and the boys found it wonderful they could now have ‘girlfriends’ at the school,” she said.
When asked what she liked about the school, Ms Davids said the staff at the school have shown her an immense amount of respect and loyalty and she is very grateful for that.
Her relationship with the pupils was also important.
“Because I am this strict teacher the pupils think they can’t talk in my class, but the pupils that I taught were very happy to be in my class because they knew there were rules in my class and they did pretty well. I had a good relationship with those pupils.
“For me it’s not the building, people talk about the building, for me it’s the people in the building. The pupils, the hustle and bustle at the school. I am going to miss the interaction with the pupils, and the teachers of course.”
“Besides the pupils it’s the staff I’ll miss. We went through a lot at the school. We started in 1980, then there were all those riots and stayaways. We were very close as a staff.
“The closeness that we have will be the thing I will miss the most. We have always stuck together and everyone helps when we need them to do so.”
Principal Amanda Matta described Ms Davids as a hard worker and committed teacher who is loved by all the pupils.
“Ms Davids is a very hard-working teacher. She’s been there for three decades, the kids love her because she’s got that very motherly figure. She has so much patience with the pupils, she makes Afrikaans come alive,” said Ms Matta.
“She’s been the HOD for Afrikaans for the last 20 years and knows the subject matter very well. She has the ability to help our Xhosa pupils to do well in their first additional language because she makes it simpler and enjoyable.
“I am going to miss her hard work. She is a pillar in the community. The kids could go to her even when they were pregnant, even after school when they were married and needed to talk.”
Ms Matta added that when Ms Davids walks into school she does so with a bright smile.
“She’s still fit as a fiddle, for someone’s who’s 60, she moves,” said Ms Matta.
“She has a very calming effect on pupils and is very punctual.
“I am going to miss that calming effect that she has, she’s got an ability to make me feel calm and gives me the oomph to want to do more.
“Having someone like that on the staff makes you want to strive to do better all the time.
“I want her to have a blast on retirement and enjoy her grandkids. She must spend time with her family and enjoy her husband, and I hope they travel,” she said.
Former pupil and now an English teacher for Grades 8 and 9, Ragmah Edwards, said her journey with Ms Davids was a loving, educational, and mentoring one.
“When I attended Spes Bona in 2005 for my first year of high school she taught Afrikaans additional language but I wasn’t in her class. I knew her because she was a senior teacher by then already.
“I only got to know her when I was doing my teaching practical last year. We actually got to work together as colleagues and she mentored us,” said Ms Edwards.
“I knew I could ask for anything, things you don’t learn at university, I could just ask her.
“She is such a caring person. She is a mother figure for a lot of pupils, and for some of the staff as well. That’s going to be missed once she’s gone.
“She won’t be around to give us that assistance and the care that she’s been giving us over the years.”
“I wrote in her card that her best years are coming and I know her job has been hectic as with any teacher. I want to tell her to enjoy her life for herself, to put her herself first and just enjoy it with no stress about coming to work before 8am, and she must do things she wasn’t able to do while she was working,” said Ms Edwards.