‘We’ve taught generations within the commmunity’

The principal of Easter Peak Primary School, Ebrahim Joseph, middle, wished teachers Pam Jacobs, left, and Jennifer Anthony, right, well on their retirement. Mr Joseph was a pupil of both teachers at the school.

As the school year comes to an end, staff and pupils of Easter Peak Primary School in Manenberg are preparing to say farewell to two of the school’s longest serving teachers.

Jennifer Anthony and Pam Jacobs are retiring at the end of the school year and have served the school for 41 and 36 years respectively. What makes their retirement even more special is that both taught the current principal, Ebrahim Joseph.

Ms Anthony was Mr Joseph’s teacher in Sub A (Grade 1) and Ms Jacobs taught him in Standard 4 (Grade 6). Mr Joseph said his two former teachers were among those who had inspired him to go into this profession.

“Both Ms Anthony and Ms Jacobs are good examples of excellent teachers, and they are both the role models our children need.

“I will miss them very much, especially for their commitment to the profession and their sense of humour. Our day can be gloomy, but they are both good at making us laugh with their anecdotes. I am honoured that I have come through their hands. They have definitely made an impact in my career choice. The type of teachers that they are, they have really done the groundwork, and have laid a solid foundation for me,” Mr Joseph said.

The former pupil started his teaching career at Easter Peak – where he was inspired to follow his dream of being a mathematics teacher “fresh from college”. He taught at Easter Peak for 17 years, before he went to a Mitchell’s Plain school for seven years, where he served as deputy principal.

Mr Joseph returned to his alma mater at the beginning of this year, when he was appointed principal.

“It was a good thing to come back. Even in the seven years I was not at the school, I’ve always considered myself as being part of it. I feel fantastic being appointed principal, as I was born and bred here, and my family still live in Manenberg.”

Ms Anthony also started her teaching career at Easter Peak. She never considered moving to another school in her “41 years and nine months” at the school, as her priority was the children, she said.

“You get so used to the fact that the children need you. Despite the challenges in Manenberg, I have never felt threatened or scared to come to school. Not too long ago, I was diagnosed with laryngitis, and the doctor wanted to book me off for three months, because my vocal chords needed rest, but I refused that. My only thought was, ‘What is going to happen to my children?’

“For me, teaching is a calling, otherwise I would have left the profession long ago,” Ms Anthony said.

The Grade 1 teacher said because of the social challenges the children in the community faced, some of them developed learning difficulties, but that had never deterred her from giving them the best quality education.

“At the beginning of the year, it can be tough – teaching the children how to read and write. But by June, when you see them blossom, to me it’s like a mother celebrating her baby coming off the nappy.

“There is a particular pupil who stands out for me. She didn’t do Grade R and only arrived in my class in February, but by the end of the year, she could write beautiful, descriptive sentences. That is my reward, and you cannot put a price on that. I am also often stopped in shopping malls, where former pupils of mine proudly say what career paths they’ve chosen. One is a civil engineer.

“A lot of good comes from Manenberg – just look at Mr Joseph. We have great respect for one another. He is a very kind person, and always considerate. The way he treats the teachers proves that he will reach even higher heights. It’s a great achievement for him to be my pupil and to come back as my principal. One of the children in my class is actually the third generation from her family that I have taught. She writes her own poems already, and I am so proud,” Ms Anthony said.

Ms Jacobs shares Ms Anthony’s thoughts that lots of good can come from Manenberg.

“It’s sad that people only want to highlight the negatives of Manenberg. Mr Joseph was my pupil who came back to teach and is my principal now. I respect him as my colleague. We need more role models like him, and not the negative types of role models. We need to concentrate more on the positives.

“I feel so proud when former pupils of mine tell me what they do today. Our children have natural, raw talent, and I would like that to be nurtured. It’s amazing what comes out when they are asked to put a play together.

“It is the right time for me to retire. I feel fulfilled. I have also taught three generations, and I feel that I have given my all. I will miss coming to school and working with the children, but I will keep busy with arts and crafts, and I am looking forward to travel abroad some more. I am very happy teaching in this community. I will miss getting up for school, and my car might just make its own way to the school,” Ms Jacobs giggled.

During her retirement, Ms Anthony is looking forward to doing community work with children who have learning difficulties.