Woodville celebrates its 40th anniversary

Jermaine Seoposenwe.

A school that became one of the first in Mitchell’s Plain to offer “adaptation” and remedial classes for pupils with special needs, is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

Woodville Primary School, previously known as Mitchell’s Plain Primary Number 9, first opened its doors on July 15 1978, catering largely to Afrikaans-speaking pupils.

At the time, said principal Keith Riddles, there were six other schools in Mitchell’s Plain. Today, there are more than 60 schools, and “we have seen Mitchell’s Plain develop into the grand metropolis”, he noted.

But Mr Riddles also remembers the “rationalisation” undertaken by the education department, which saw the school’s teaching complement reduced from 41 to 28. And despite so few teachers for 1 100 pupils, they managed to deliver “excellent results”, he added.

“Our school’s motto, ‘Endeavor and Achieve’, has been the driving force behind our achievements. We are proud of the cultural, academic and sporting accolades we have reached. Our trophy cabinet speaks not only of our endeavors, but also the numerous achievements we have attained with our many teachers, including the first principal, the late Alan Weber.”

The school is also proud of pupils who have succeeded after moving on from Woodville. One of those singled out was Hamima Mullah, a former Woodville pupil who went on to become one of the top Mitchell’s Plain matriculants in 2016, when she finished her schooling at Spine Road High School.

Retired deputy principal Hester Bester encouraged parents to get involved in their children’s schooling. “Encourage your children to work hard. Parents, don’t wait on the teachers to do the work for your children but make it a collective effort where you are able to learn with your children.”

Also at the thanksgiving ceremony were former pupils Deen Louw, a musician better known as D-Low, and comedian and entrepreneur Wayne McKay.

“This school played an important role in nurturing your children. It is so important for us to give back, lending a helping hand. I am so excited about the future of Woodville, only great things await them,” said Mr McKay.

Another alumnus who has decided to contribute to the school, is Ebrahim Adams who was recently elected chairman of the school governing body (SGB).

“I was at Woodville from 1986 to 1989 and I can truly say how proud I am to be a part of the legacy of Woodville. May this school grow from strength to strength,” he said.

Woodville also has a rich cultural heritage, which Mr Riddles highlighted.

“Culturally, we have produced many musicals, concerts and operettas. If we remember Die Fluitspeler, The Magic Basket, Beyond Hope and Big Bad Wolf where the actors of Woodville, under the tutelage of highly capable producers, put on performances that warmed our hearts! The mini operetta Cinderella displayed the hidden talents of our pupils,” he said.

“Many of them would have done us proud if we had been allowed to compete on the world’s stage. We were prevented from doing so because of a discriminatory, non-democratic, apartheid government that classed us as second-class citizens. In spite of this, our sport stars competed with aplomb on the stage provided for them,” he said.

The school has also produced sporting stars, among them Abubaker Mobara, who represented South Africa as part of Bafana Bafana and currently plays for Orlando Pirates; and Jermaine Seoposenwe who played for Banyana Banyana, South Africa’s national women’s team.

But there have also been times of sadness, which Sheik Abubaker Gabriels, who provides spiritual guidance at Woodville, reflected on.

“Sadly, we remember some of our learners and parents who died tragically — a victim of the station strangler, Samuel Samaai, who attended our school. A young girl, Anastatia Wiese, 11, who was sexually assaulted and murdered by her mom’s boyfriend in her family home, two pupils knocked down and killed close to the school premises. These are not nice stories to tell but it is part of the reality in Mitchell’s Plain. We remember them,” he said.