A legendary deputy principal who saw both sides of the education system has spent his last day in the classroom teaching.
Percy Atkins, from Westridge, has spent 32 years as a teacher, former acting principal and now former deputy principal at Ridgeville Primary School in Westridge, he told the Plainsman on Friday July 29.
Mr Atkins has been living in Mitchell’s Plain since 1980, he attended Rocklands High School in the early 80s and Ridgeville Primary in 1981. He originates from District 6 where he also attended Holy Cross Primary School in the 70s but was forcibly removed with his family in the 80s.
He wanted to be a lawyer or a vet because of his love for animals but chose to be a teacher so that he could be close to sport and the people.
“This was the better decision to make as my interactions with people have grown. I played rugby, cricket, and some soccer,” he said.
He did his teaching practical at Westville Primary School in 1988, was a student teacher at Athlone Primary School in 1989 as well as Thornton Road Primary School in 1990. In 1991 Mr Atkins started at Ridgeville Primary School. He completed his Diploma of Education at Hewat College of Education in Crawford. From 2003 to 2005 he studied through the University of the Western Cape for a Diploma in Values and Human Rights in Education.
He has seen many changes in the education system. When he started teaching it was the old system, a Christian National Education System during apartheid from 1991 to 1994. In 1994 they had an interim curriculum which was implemented and the Outcomes Based Education (OBE) system in 1999. They’re still currently on OBE although it’s changed here and there and they’ve reintroduced needlework, woodwork into technology, he said.
Mr Atkins taught English, maths, history and geography. The best teacher he ever taught with was the late Roy Ackerman. “I kept him in high esteem; he set the standard for young teachers at the time.”
Mr Atkins has led the scholar patrol since 1995. Winning the Cape Town Championship Scholar Patrol Competition in the 90s was special, he said.
“At the championship the pupils write the test and do a practical on the road. It’s a nice thing. In 1996, 2001 to 2003, we won the competition which was stopped in the early 2000s. Hopefully it will be reintroduced,” he said.
Ridgeville was quite strong in athletics, he said, and has produced some really good athletes.
“I’ll miss my colleagues, former principal Solomon Hanz who used to braai on a Friday after school.”
He also said people are important in the system and don’t forget to respect them.
“I know everything must come to an end. For new teachers, you can only pave the way by giving them the opportunity to serve and take up leadership positions,” he said.
“The schooling system was very strict. It was difficult to bring the needed change because of the inequality at the time. Now we have a democracy where pupils are more vocal. Pupils should take responsibility for their rights,” said Mr Atkins.
Teacher Anastasia Lawn said Mr Atkins was a true hero. He is a selfless and loyal man. He is the first to arrive and the last to leave at school, she said.
“We’ve worked together for seven years, I joined Ridgeville as a young teacher not knowing what to expect but Mr Atkins took me under his wing. He would create situations for growth to allow young teachers to equip themselves with new skills. Mr Atkins was like a father to the pupils, he cared for them. You taught us so much Mr Atkins we appreciate it and wish you well,” she said.
Teacher Tozama Ngqwebo said she worked with Mr Atkins since 2014.
“Mr Atkins welcomed me with a smile. He is caring, even saw to pupils out of his own pocket. Pupils even wish him on Father’s Day. He is a legend who leaves a legacy at Ridgeville. May everything you touch bring gold in your life my dearest ‘Percy Sledge.’ Be blessed my leadership, we will miss you.” she said.
Derick Owis, school-governing body member, said it’s sad that he’s leaving as “we’re letting go of a gem”.
“We’re gonna miss him. We hope he’s going to enjoy his retirement and get the rest he deserves. We thank you for your service Mr Atkins,” he said.
Principal Anthony Europa, said although Mr Atkins may pop in from time to time they will miss his presence.
“At some point we will depart from our learning space as teachers. Since people heard he’s leaving, many have expressed heartfelt wishes as he’s been with the school for 32 years. We will miss him. He did a job well done and he definitely leaves a good legacy. He’s very close to our heart and we wish him well on his journey,” he said.