Merrydale Primary looks back on more than 40 years

Merrydale Primary School teachers Nikita Wepener, Candice Cunningham and vice principal Gail Adolf, cut the school’s cake.

Forty-three isn’t exactly a milestone anniversary, but it’s one Merrydale Primary School celebrated nevertheless, looking back on the more than four decades that the Lentegeur school has been part of the Mitchell’s Plain community.

The school, which was first housed at Portland High School, celebrates its anniversary on May 23, the day it moved to its current location further down Merrydale Avenue.

Principal Taahir Dilgee said the school had started with a foundation phase and grown steadily, including more grades, but it had had its last Grade 8 class in 2013 because high schools in the area had needed more pupils.

Mr Dilgee said pupil numbers had dropped steadily over the past three years and were below the 1 000 pupil threshold.

“People have either moved out of the area or parents are taking pupils to other schools,” he said.

As pupil numbers declined so too had the number of staff, but academic standards were “exactly the same”, he said.

Mr Dilgee is the school’s fourth principal, having been at Merrydale for the past nine years.

He said that before the national Covid-19 lockdown the school had been a top school for netball, soccer and marching band, and it hoped to regain that reputation.

“We are slowly picking up the pieces again and will be able to compete again in the next year or two.”

He said they were the feeder school for marching band members at Portland High School.

“We’ve had good community involvement and parents support us with our fund-raisers,” he said.

The school planned to start a programme to teach parents how to support their children academically at home, he said.

“I fear holidays. We teach pupils today and they forget work when they are at home.”

The school has received donations from businesses, built a security block, upgraded its toilets and partnered with neighbouring schools, and it often uses the hall at West End Primary School.

“We would like to bring our school back into the limelight and make us shine again,” Mr Dilgee said.

The community looked after the school and it had had no break-ins or vandalism over the past decade, he added.

“We have the support from the community. We have day and night security. Together we can build a better environment for their children. It will be a great success for the school and its community.”

Merrydale Primary School principal Taahir Dilgee.