Montagu Drive Primary School has grieved for pupils and teachers that have died young while watching others achieve great heights. On Wednesday March 22, staff, pupils and alumni gathered to celebrated 40 years of memories at the “community-based” school in Portland.
“There is something about the school that makes you feel different. The interaction with staff and community has always been on a different level, in a positive way,” said Principal Anton Arendse, who has been at the school for 22 of it 40 years.
Mr Arendse started at the school in 2001 as head of department for the intermediate phase. He was appointed as deputy principal in 2007 and became principal in 2019.
Detailing the history of the school, former deputy head, Isabel Groenewald, said it was previously known as Mitchell’s Plain No.18 Primary School. Ms Groenewald, who has been teaching at the school since it opened, said pupils from all over Mitchell’s Plain attended the school.
In 1983, Montagu Drive Primary School started with grades 1 to 7, or sub A to standard 5, as it was known at the time. They had 30 teachers with 1 500 pupils, Ms Groenewald said.
The late Joseph Vergotine, a former principal of the school and Princeton High, started at Montagu Primary when they opened their doors in 1983. He was followed by William Von Buchenroder in 1989, David September in 1990, Clive Rademeyer in 1996 and Felicity Sasman in 2006. Ms Sasman led the school until Mr Arendse took over the reins in 2019.
“When you come to this school you don’t really leave, the work ethic is so strong. The community is supportive towards the school,” Mr Arendse said.
The school has achieved great accolades in sport, Mr Arendse said, adding that they have won in their athletics group for 19 years.
“Former pupil Naeem Jack, was a national champion in hurdles at 11 in 2017 and 2018. We are so proud when our former pupils and current pupils achieve success in sport,” he said.
The school has also said sad farewells to pupils and teachers who have died.
“Burying pupils while they’re attending school is a heartbreaking thing. They won’t be able to reach adulthood but we remember them,” said Mr Arendse.
Teacher Josephine Gardner, who has also been teaching at the school for 40 years, said it was her home away from home.
“You’re like a family here. This is the only school we’ve been to. Everyone is so equipped with what we do here. This school is known for its excellence,” she said.
Teachers Vivienne Floris and Allison Steenkamp, were also among the staff that had been teaching at the school since it opened and they said they “carried one another” at the school.
Mr Rademeyer, who was principal at the school for 10 years, brought the puppet Dawi to the celebration.
“We became an inclusive school over the years. I remember we built the cement stage in the quad. The Lord always came through for us at this school,” he said.
Former teacher Wendy Van Dieman-Smidt was part of a team who taught the pupils drum majorettes. In the late 80s they belonged to the Western Province Drum Majorettes Association.
“We did very well. The uniforms weren’t affordable and affected us but we’ve learned so much from being a part of it. We had the basics. It was doing something to the morale of our pupils and we did well,” she said.
Former pupil Shaikh Yasser Fredericks said the school has been a generous place of guidance.
“The seed of education has been planted in this school. ‘Moet nie n vlieg wees nie, wees n brommer. Be loud,’ my teacher used to say. He would encourage me to be confident, and loud about what I can do and who I am. For 40 years this school has stood and we all wish them well,” he said.
Mr Arendse said the school opened itself to the community through partnerships. It is therefore also home of the Portland Block B neighbourhood watch headquarters and the school also partners with Westpoort Primary School for “team teaching”.
“We’re a community-based school. In the future we are hoping to build a sports field to renovate it so that we can have an area where the children can practise and play sport,” he said.