South Peninsula High School in Diep River is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
The school has a rich anti-apartheid history. Teachers at the time were known to be active in the struggle and created political awareness among pupils. Current principal and former pupil at the school, Zeid Baker said: “The teachers at this school followed a motto of educating to liberate.”
The school is a commuter school, with pupils mostly coming from Grassy Park, Steenberg, Mitchell’s Plain, Pelican Park, Athlone and Ottery.
It was opened in January 1950 to address the growing number of coloured people who were displaced due to apartheid’s Group Areas Act from areas such as District Six and Constantia and moved to Lavender Hill, Hanover Park and Parkwood.
During the 1950s and 1960s, all of the teachers at the school belonged to the Teachers’ League of South Africa, an organisation for coloured teachers at historically disadvantaged schools which was founded in Cape Town in June of 1913.
The group, while originally focused on issues around education, became increasingly political in the mid-1940s and started to agitate against apartheid.
Due to state suppression, the group became defunct in 1963.
“A lot of political awareness and thinking happened there, many of our teachers belonged there so the education that they offered had political connotations,” said Mr Baker.
Mr Baker says from 1978 to 1982 the school faced many shutdowns.
“Just after the 76 uprisings, then with the 1980 strikes, there were a lot of awareness campaigns, shut-downs and uprisings. I was telling the students today that we were given work on Monday and work had to be completed on the following Monday during that time. There was no internet or anything like that. That’s why even with the coronavirus now, it’s not something new to the school. We are used to working under such conditions and we are pre-empting what could possibly happen,” he said.
A lot of the leadership of the school over the years has been made up of former pupils.
One of the legends of the school, who was also one of its first pupils, is former biology teacher Fred Coker, who is featured in Jonathan Jansen’s book “Great South African Teachers”. Mr Jansen did his Grade 8 year at South Peninsula in the 1970s before moving to Steenberg High School.
“For his class, Mr Coker would come running down the corridor, run into the classroom, slide across the floor and ask what’s that, and the learners would respond, it’s friction sir,” said Mr Baker.
Mr Coker was also deputy principal at the school from 1984 to 1994.
Another legend is Brian Isaacs who was principal at the school from 1984 to 2016. He was the longest serving principal at the school.
“He took over at a very turbulent time. The rationalisation, which resulted in the
cutting of funding for schools in the 90s and the changes that happened after that really affected schools, and it’s the poor
schools that suffered the most. It was detrimental in that there was an exodus of teachers, they were removed from schools, class sizes move from a decent size of 25 to 30 learners and now 35 – 40 learners,” said Mr Baker.
“He steered the school through various curriculum changes because of his political insight. The school could
project itself as a good academic school despite all the changes and the education system which is constantly in a state of flux.” he said.
Mr Isaacs is currently in the process of writing a book from the years of 1990 to 2020 for the school – where he will share some of the highlights.
“The school has produced many great ex-students in various fields such as Veruschka September, a lead lawyer in state capture,” said Mr Baker.
Other ex-pupils who have made a name for themselves include actor and musician Riaad Moosa and Amy Kleinhans, who was crowned Miss South Africa in 1992.
Some of the great athletics champions that the school has produced to represent South Africa nationally are Roxanne Goliath, Nabeelah Parker and Mark Frank.
They also take pride in Springbok rugby player Zain Davids, who started his high school career at South Peninsula, before moving to Rondebosch Boys’ High School.
The Inter-house Athletics is popular at the school with over 60% of pupils taking part in it.
“Speak to any ex-student, first thing they ask is what house were you in,” said Mr Baker.
The 70th anniversary celebrations started with the 60th Inter-House Athletics Day held in February. A prayer service was also held to bless the school last month.
The school’s next big event was due to be its jazz evening scheduled for Saturday April 4, where alumni jazz bands were to come back and perform with the current musicians at the school. However, the school is having to rethink some of its events with the president’s instruction of not having gatherings where there are more than 100 people to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Other events included an alumni “Call back the past” event, where ex- pupils would share their school experience over open mic, and a gala
dinner set for Saturday September 26 to honour some legends of the school who are still alive.
The school is encouraging its former pupils to support the 70th anniversary celebrations. For updates, follow “I went to South Peninsula High School” on Facebook, visit www.sphigh.org or contact the school at firstname.lastname@example.org