Harvester Primary reflects on 40 years

From left are Harvester Primary junior deputy principal Fahiema Mosavel, principal Thaabiet Gasant and senior deputy principal Sharon Poole.

Harvester Primary School pupils in their green and gold colours could easily be mistaken for being part of a national award-winning team.

The school is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and it was their drill squad members, dressed in blazers and hats, which did in fact bring home some awards just this month.

They won best dressed, best drum major and came second for grand march and exhibition in the primary school category at the 11th annual march and drill competition at the Soccer Oval, at the Stephen Reagon sports field in Westridge on Saturday October 13.

The drill squad has also taken part and won awards at the last four annual Nelson Mandela Bay Schools Marching Drill Competitions.

Harvester Primary School opened its doors in 1978 and was first known by the number 10. At the time only 225 pupils were enrolled with nine teachers.

Today they have 1 200 pupils, 32 teachers including assistants, two cleaners, a foreman and a gardener.

Teacher Desiree Okkers, 62, has been at the school since its inception, and lives close by. She served at the Westridge school with Edgar Paulse, the first principal, then Neville Jenneker and Thabiet Gasant, who has been the principal since 1994.

Mr Gasant has been at the school since before the advent of South Africa’s new democracy.

“We brought the school from the old era (apartheid) to the new era, now when unions have a voice. The syllabus has changed from subject to learning areas and where the foundations for tolerance, respect, racial integration and cultural diversity have been laid,” he said.

Harvester Primary School was the first school in the country to raise the new South African flag, in the same year when they hosted the friendship games with soccer, chess, table tennis and volley ball against Grove Primary School in Claremont, Chumisa Primary School, in Khayelitsha and Lantana Primary School, in Lentegeur, in 1994.

Mr Gasant recalled premier Helen Zille then being the chairperson of the Claremont’s school’s governing body.

“We as adults had had a lot of baggage and misconceptions of other race groups and the leadership of each school had agreed to start changing perceptions with the pupils. The idea was for the children, from different cultures and backgrounds, who could play together and grow together,” he said.

The inaugural games were first hosted at the school and the following year it became the Outreach Games, with an athletics programme at Vygieskraal Stadium. Over the years the school has also staged productions such as Oliver, Sound of Music, Oklahoma and Orphans of Qumbu.

It was also among a few provincial schools which offered music and ballet as examination subjects from Grade 1 to Grade 7.

The school has performed at numerous events over the years, including festivals, tournaments and community events. In 2015 and 2016 the school’s marching and drill squad performed at the Simon’s Town Naval Festival. They opened Mandela Day celebrations on July 18, at the University of the Western Cape this year.

Pupils also help out at an annual event to serve the elderly at Westridge civic centre. Every year they collect soft toys, which are distributed to disadvantaged children.

The teachers also gather goods and money to distribute food parcels to needy pupils and their families during Ramadaan and at Christmas.

The school’s sporting codes include soccer, rugby, cricket, netball, cycling, table tennis, chess, cross country and athletics. They also have a choir and a brass band, in conjunction with Battswood Art Centre, in Grassy Park.

The school has a garden, which contributes to the feeding scheme for 450 pupils daily. It also has a soup kitchen, which is run by the teachers, every Wednesday.

Mr Gasant said only 30% of the parents pay school fees. To make up for the shortfall, they have regular fund-raisers, including an annual fashion show.

Since 1998 the school has had daily sponsored security, which is not funded by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED).

They only had one serious incident in early 1995, which was vandalism more than theft because nothing was stolen said Mr Gasant.

Their flag pole was chopped but no one saw anything.

Mr Gasant said the school had discipline issues but it did not override the good that the pupils, the staff or parents were doing for the benefit of the children and its community.

“You have to put the child first and we work together as a team to ensure the pupils have nothing but the best,” he said.

Two years ago the school started hosting a Cuppa for Cancer to support the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA), in raising awareness of breast cancer.

The more than three decade wait for a school hall is over as the school officially opens the doors to its hall on Saturday October 27.

Sharon Poole, senior deputy principal, said they are invited to various functions because word of the school’s accomplishments is out there. She said they however, needed a bus.

Ms Poole said the staff at the school have worked hard to set and maintain a standard of excellence.