Willows Primary celebrates 50 years of schooling

With the birthday cake, from left, are principal Mogamat Kashief Abrahams, 1996 pupils Christine van Neel and Mariana Alfos and former principal Quinton Cloete.

As Willows Primary School celebrated its 50th anniversary this week, staff looked back on the history of the school, which first opened its doors in July 1966.

In its early days, the Heideveld school had an enrolment of 801 pupils and a staff complement of 22 teachers.

It now has 1 062 pupils and 27 teachers, among them 25 permanent teachers and two school governing body teachers.

The school’s first principal was Adam Counsel, who headed the school from 1966 to 1978. He was followed by Ernest Williams, from 1980 to 1992; Edward Brooks, from 1993 to 1996, and Quinton Cloete, from 1997 to 2012. Current principal Mogamat Kashief Abrahams took over in 2012.

To accommodate the demand for space for Sub A and Sub B (now Grades 1 and 2) classes, the school ran two shifts – one in the morning, from 8am to noon, and another from noon until 4.30pm. But in 1968, Easter Peak Primary opened in neighbouring Manenberg, easing the strain on Willows Primary’s resources.

Mr Abrahams, now 47, started at the school in 1993, as a Grade 7 mathematics and natural science teacher.

He became a Grade 5 teacher the following year and was appointed to a permanent post in 1996. The following year, he started teaching Grade 7 again.

It’s a challenge for the school to accommodate the growing number of pupils in the ageing asbestos and prefabricated buildings, and currently the computer lab is used as a classroom rather than a space to teach pupils to use computers.

Next year, the school will be rebuilt with bricks and mortar, said Mr Abrahams.

The school offers soccer and netball, and has its own choir.

Asked about some of the challenges faced at the school, Mr Abrahams said: “Due to the lack of parental control, pupils often display behavioural problems at school. We have to deal with late coming on a daily basis.

“Also, some parents leave home early and the older siblings have to get the younger children ready for school, which often results in truancy and late coming.”

Two parents cook meals every day for 250 pupils who don’t have a proper meal to eat before coming to school.

Angeline Peid, 76, has been at the school for 19 years. She started in 1967 as an afternoon shift teacher, teaching a class of 30 Sub A pupils.

In 1984, she moved over to the Grade 6 and 7 classes, where she taught history, geography, afrikaans and needle work.

In 1996, she took a retrenchement package, but was called to help out, which is how she ended up back at Willows.

“The thing about this school is that we always work together.

“Through everything, we still smile, and do a lot for these children.”