Hyacinth Primary turns 40 years old

Hyacinth Primary School prefects Buhle Adams, Mickyle Winnaar, Qaied Emire, teacher Liesl Reynolds, Tamica September, Thuwayba Moses and Linomusa Bence.

Gaironisa Samaai, a Grade 6 teacher at Hyacinth Primary considers her tenure at the school as “one of the best learning phases” of her life.

“It is where I learned what sound each letter makes and how to solve little equations,” she said at the Lentegeur school’s 40th anniversary celebration on Friday March 18.

Teachers and special guests at Hyacinth Primary School’s 40th anniversary celebration.

Ms Samaai said the older she gets the more she realises how many life lessons were learnt at the school, where she now teaches. “It gave me confidence and motivation. It is where I discovered my uniqueness and my individuality.

“It is at Hyacinth where I gained knowledge to excel in my high school and university careers,” she said.

“It is at Hyacinth where I realised I want to be a teacher.”

She said being able to teach at her alma mater makes her even more grateful for her experiences as a pupil.

“It made me a better person, a better teacher. And I know when I am faced with difficulty I can count on my fellow colleagues because here at Hyacinth, we are a family.

“I happily serve at home, in my community and at Hyacinth”.

Principal Anthony Engel, who only joined the Hyacinth staff in October last year, said he was most impressed by the staff, the pupils who were well behaved, parents and school neighbours, who helped prevent vandalism at the school.

Mr Engel said they are a no fee school and that most parents support the school. “They look after the school. We haven’t had break-ins,” he said.

Former principal Cedric Anyster died in December 2020, one of the deputy principals retired and the other took a post at another school. Foundation phase head of department and now deputy principal Yvette van der Merwe served as acting principal from December 2020 until Mr Engel’s arrival.

Mr Engel said when he arrived, a number of teachers had had Covid-19.

Foundation phase head of department Nazlie Abbas and her husband, who had laid across from each other in a hospital intensive care unit, died within days of each other.

The school, which now has 1 276 pupils and a staff contingent of 74, has its roots in District Six, with some of the pupils and teachers of George Golding Primary having been transferred to Hyacinth Primary when they were forced out of District Six under the Group Areas Act.

Zurainnah Majiet, intermediate phase head of department and deputy principal, said many residents who were forcibly removed from District Six by the Apartheid regime had moved with the school.

“Today we have fourth generation learners, children’s children and grandchildren,” she said.

The school is a mixed bag of races and nations, with half of the pupils’ parents from other African states. Ms Majiet said they worked with the Refugee Forum, who help cover the expenses of pupils who were displaced.

Up until 1990, Afrikaans was the language of instruction, and when the school faced losing staff because their enrolment was too low, staff then went on a door-to-door campaign to recruit pupils.

“This was done to save the teachers’ jobs,” she said.

Pupils participate in array of sports, including athletics, cricket, rugby, volleyball, chess, darts, netball and have a drilling squad. Ms Majiet said partnerships or pupils playing for sports teams in the area created camaraderie and further instilled a sense of belonging.

Ms Van der Merwe said irrespective of the many challenges the school had faced over the years they had always found solutions.

And, she added, the national Covid-19 lockdown had had dire consequences for the pupils, their parents and extended families.

“We are already in poverty stricken community but with the advent of the pandemic and pupils not able to receive their daily meals from the feeding scheme the school governing body (SGB) had rallied to donate weekly pots of food,” she said.

Parents who sold fruit, vegetables or had connections with the local butcher made donations, she added.

During the school holiday, pupils also receive meals prepared by the school community.

Over the years the school had staged some fun theatre productions and gone on tours to afford pupils the opportunity to leave Mitchell’s Plain – and the province.

Mr Engel said there were lots of socio-economic factors impacting on the school and its community but that they would find a way to help each other.

They have applied for a school hall, which they would like to allow the community to use and they are looking to have another entry and exit to the school at Crocus Street, in Lentegeur.

There is a specific focus on getting pupils to read in their classrooms and they hope to soon have a container converted into a library.

Staff are also working with pupils to encourage public speaking and help them achieve their goals.

“It is my vision for the school to be a hive of activity, for learners, their families and the community to be involved,” said Mr Engel.

“I want the school to serve the community. It is the community, as we teach the next generation of residents. We want the community to have access to the school, to help learners off the streets, not to turn to drugs and keep them busy.”