Portland Primary turns 40

The schools choir sing a medley.

With their prominent blue school uniform and excellence in sports and academics, Portland Primary School is celebrating their 40th anniversary this year.

A ceremony to mark the occasion was held at Westridge civic centre on Wednesday April 10, the exact date on which the school started in 1979.

Henry Baartman, who spoke about the history of the school, was the deputy principal under the leadership of former principal Vincenzo Carletti.

He said that when the school started he was asked to join as the woodwork teacher by the late principal William Hendricks.

“At the time I was doing a woodwork course. I did not know the late Mr Hendricks wanted to open a school. After the school opened, he told me to be at school by 7am, I was the only woodwork guy in Mitchell’s Plain,” said Mr Baartman.

Mr Hendricks would hammer on about discipline in meetings, said Mr Baartman during his speech at the anniversary ceremony.

Mr Hendricks would encourage pupils to sit with their books and study during their breaks.

“Punctuality was his number one thing. He would also stand with the scholar patrol at the pedestrian crossing and put the children in their place if they showed up late,” said Mr Baartman.

Portland was good at athletics, soccer, netball and even offered hockey and softball, said Mr Baartman.

Ryan van Wyk was the captain of the rugby team and, “we had the best field in Mitchell’s Plain at the time,” said Mr Baartman.

He mentioned some of the former pupils and teachers who have gone on to make a name for themselves.

Shukri Conrad taught at Portland and later became the coach of the Cobras cricket team.

Ruschda O’Shea, a former pupil at Portland Primary School, is now the principal at San Souci Girls’ High School in Claremont.

He applauded the teachers for making sure the children remain in school and off the street.

“Thank you, teachers, for the legacy you left for us,” said Mr Baartman.

A library is being built at the school in honour of the late Grade 4 pupil, Mercy Ndlovu, who died in a car accident in 2015.

The library is under construction and will open soon, said principal Eleanor Braaf.

Guest speaker, Andy Meyer, told the pupils that a clever child is one who can use their imagination.

He told the crowd of children to imagine an elephant in any shape or form.

“You are able to do things beyond what you are and where you are. Never chase after dreams that are material,” he said.

Mr Carletti was the principal from 1994 to 2011. Ms Braaf started in 2012 and has been the principal for eight years. She said parents are involved more now than ever and that times have changed.

“We have a diverse group of children at our school who travel from areas such as Phillipi, Langa, Delft, Gugulethu and Samora Machel to name a few. It has become challenging for children to participate in sport because of how far they stay,” said Ms Braaf.

The school has created programmes during school hours to make up for pupils not being able to attend activities after school, said Ms Braaf.

She said the classrooms are also too small as they were built in the 1970s and not conducive to hosting more than 30 children.

“When teaching, one should have a passion for what you do. I believe that your child is my child. I love my job,” she said.

She said she was fortunate to have a fantastic group of people to work with.