Challenge to prevent exodus of pupils out of ’Plain

Riyaad Najaar

It is a privilege to contribute to this special supplement of the Plainsman on the 40th anniversary of Mitchell’s Plain.

The first school in Mitchell’s Plain, Highlands Primary, opened its doors on the 5 October 1976. Ezekiel Williams was the first principal.

There are now 71 primary schools and 16 high schools in Mitchell’s Plain, with the newest being AZ Berman High School (which opened in 2014) and the oldest Westridge High School which opened in 1977 with Peter Petersen as the first principal.

Since the early years, education in Mitchell’s Plain – with the influx of thousands into the area – remained a daunting exercise.

In 1985 education came to a standstill in the area as a result of the fight for equal education. Schools became the fulcrum from which the liberation struggle emanated. Teachers organised themselves under the Western Cape Teachers’ Union(WECTU) and children and students organised themselves under the Mitchell’s Plain Students Congress (MIPSCO). Many children lost out on a quality education and they sacrificed their education for a greater cause.

The principals organised themselves at first under the banner of the Mitchells Plain Principals’ Association (MPPA) which is now defunct and it gave birth to a provincial principals’ association called the Progressive Principals’ Association (PPA).

Mitchell’s Plain schools have done wonders despite the lack of physical and human resources. In spite of social challenges and the evils of drugs and gangsterism, many children of Mitchell’s Plain have risen above these circumstances to make their mark in the academic world as well as culturally and on the sportsfield.

Mitchell’s Plain schools have produced countless doctors, engineers, accountants, lawyers, advocates and artisans, among others. Great entertainers like the Adams brothers (Loukmaan and Emo), Wasief Piekaan, Nadir Adams (Broertjie) and many others, also call Mitchell’s Plain home.

On the sports front, Mitchell’s Plain produced the first chess grandmaster, Kennith Solomon, Springbok rugby players, Dale Sandton, Norman Jordaan and Eddie Andrews and countless provincial and national soccer players. These individuals all hail from schools in Mitchell’s Plain and they all had dedicated teachers to thank for spending time with them after school without extra remuneration but “driven by the passion to serve”.

The major challenge remains for Mitchell’s Plain schools to prevent the hundreds of pupils leaving Mitchell’s Plain to attend schools outside of the area. Schools need to raise their quality and standard and remain competitive to ensure that parents send their children to our schools.

We hope and pray that we rise to the challenge to give our children all the opportunities to excel and prosper.

* Riyaad Najaar is the principal of Spine Road High School, the first school to achieve a 100% matric pass rate in 2014.