Teachers close their chapter

Red River Primary School teachers, Verne Hartogh, left, and Isabel October, right, will be retiring at the end of the month. With them is principal Everett Poole.

Red River Primary School in Manenberg will soon say farewell to two stalwarts in education who, between the two of them, share 80 years of service.

Verne Hartogh and Isabel October will be retiring at the end of the month, and will take with them a lifetime of memories.

Ms Hartogh has been a teacher for 41 years, and served 39 of those years at Red River Primary.

Ms October has been with Red River Primary for 32 years – before that, she taught at a school in Upington for seven years.

Ms October comes from a family who either made nursing or teaching their careers, so she naturally followed that path.

“When my family and I decided to move to Cape Town, I got a transfer and ended up at Red River Primary. My first friend I made at this school, happens to be Ms Hartogh, and it is just a coincidence that we are retiring at the same time. Our friendship is as strong as ever,” Ms October said.

Ms Hartogh said she never knew she would become a teacher one day, but believes this career was God’s intention for her.

“I started my career fresh from college, at Silverstream High School, where I taught Grade 8 for a few years, before joining the Red River Primary family. I didn’t know Manenberg then, but heard people calling it a gangster place. I don’t believe that I ended up here by chance.

“God took me off my pedestal and placed me in Manenberg. It has been such a life-enriching experience. So many people touched my life here. I was offered jobs in more affluent areas, but I declined it. I believe it was God’s intention to place me here. I was a young lady when I started, and I got married, had children and grandchildren, and my husband passed away in 2014. I don’t regret sharing all that with the people of Manenberg. I’m going to miss this place, however, I believe it is my season now to take care of my mother, who has Alzheimer’s,” Ms Hartogh said.

The two teachers have maintained their friendship beyond school hours, and say that the funny things children say, and the mispronunciation of some names, were among the things they will remember.

Ms October said she is retiring with mixed emotions.

“I have come a long way with this community. I will miss the children, my colleagues and the parents. I have developed a great relationship with the parents over the years.

“One of the parents, Jessica Oostendorp, is among those who faithfully supports the school. We can call on her to help make school uniforms, clothes for our concerts, and even curtains. We could ask her to sew anything,” she said.

Ms October plans to spend more time with family and friends, to travel, work at her church, and do charitable work in her community during her retirement years.

Ms Hartogh also plans to be an active retiree. Apart from caring for her mother, she hopes to volunteer by reading to children at her local library, as well as working for her church.

Red River Primary School principal, Everett Poole, said both teachers will be missed.

“Ms Hartogh is the head of department, and Ms October is the grade head. Ms October also assisted the conductor with our choir, and she inspired us to produce our school song.

“I found the two to be always smiling, friendly, co-operative, and they never complained. Both also went the extra mile. They always remained positive, and have built a good relationship with the community. Nothing was too much to ask of them. They are also both very hospitable. Ms October is good with home-baked bread, and Ms Hartogh is known for her tasty salads. They always managed to creep into people’s hearts, because of all the little extra bits they have done.

“They will really be missed,” Mr Poole said.