Groups of Meadowridge Primary pupils confidently entered their principal’s office to thank him – and to say goodbye to him as he retires after 40 years of teaching.
Norman Daniels, 64, who has headed the school for 19 years, welcomed the pupils in their mother tongue, encouraged them to stand tall as they read their speech and opened his arms for hugs.
Grade 7 pupil Bongi Chopa, from Khayelitsha, thanked Mr Daniels for opening his Lentegeur home to her.
She would pop in there before school and over weekends ahead of netball matches, to enjoy a bowl of porridge.
On his last day of school last week Bongi also dressed school secretary Delaries Daniels, who is Mr Daniels’ wife.
“I want to show my gratitude to our wonderful principal. You have been nothing but the best principal to each and every one of us in this school,” she said.
“You have been a father, a hero and a role model to me. I always felt like your daughter when you invited me to eat porridge at your house.”
Bongi also thanked Mr Daniels for preparing young leaders for the world of tomorrow.
Retired principals from neighbouring schools were also welcomed with cheer and surprise as staff scurried in the school front yard for the farewell party.
Mr Daniels started teaching in 1981 at Spes Bona High School, in Athlone, and joined the Lentegeur primary school three years later.
In 1991 he became head of department and about 11 years later he became principal.
He said during his tenure the school had grown “tremendously” from about 500 pupils to 1500 two decades later.
“It is a good thing. We have pupils from all walks of life and we create space for them,” he said, adding that the number of pupils dictated the support needed from the Western Cape Education Department.
He said the curriculum was a challenge and that pupils needed extra help when it came to language. This was particularly the case with English which was the medium of instruction even though the home language of 70% of the pupils was Afrikaans, isiXhosa or other languages .
“Most of the pupils come from homes that need extra help,” he said.
The school has chalets on the premises retired teachers work with pupils to help them improve their reading. And during these sessions, said Mr Daniels, the focus was not on results, but reinforcing the basics.
“To read and type a simple message and communicate in daily life,” he said.
Mr Daniels said the school’s sporting results were a highlight for him.
He also collaborated and shared best practices with principals, from neighbouring schools, having been a member of the Lentegeur Education Foundation.
“It’s good to know what is happening at other schools and how they may deal with their municipal bill,” he said.
Mr Daniels said that life was simple.
“Focus on the simple things. The Creator gives. Take it one day at a time. It is a gift that is why it is called the present”.
He said there was no use in crying over yesterday’s aches and pains.
“Focus on today. Make sure you lived your life well. Give away it was not given to you to keep,” said Mr Daniels.
He called on pupils to persevere in whatever was good in their lives and remember that decisions have consequences.
As for his plans for retirement, he said after working for 40 years in education he wants to do something with immediate results – whether it is installing well points or rebuilding a car.