A SCHOOL OF EXCELLENCE
This article first appeared in the commemorative 40th anniversary magazine ‘South Peninsula though the Ages’, compiled by Ms Loretta Fleurs, as related by the late Mr DF Thebus.
The Early Years
From humble beginnings to the proud heights of academic and sporting prowess, South Peninsula High School has become a prestigious school with a rich history, an exciting present and a promising future.
In January 1950 a new high school for the disadvantaged communities of the Southern Suburbs (the fifth in the Peninsula) was started in a church hall in Princessvlei Road, Southfield. Known at first as Southfield Secondary, this school was to develop into the highly esteemed South Peninsula High School. (The hall – now known as The Red Barn and and housing the local MOTH organization – in which the school started still stands today, although a bridge spanning the railway line now passes over it.)
The first principal of SP was Mr F. Hendricks, retired principal of Battswood Training College, Wynberg. The first teachers on the staff were Mr P Swiegelaar (who remained at SP until his retirement in 1970), Miss Fuchs, Mr FP Joshua and Mr Lochner. When the school started in 1950, 124 Std 7 students were enrolled and divided into four classes. All four classes were housed in the hall and were separated from one another by means of curtains. Instruction was therefore given under very difficult conditions.
July 1950 saw the beginning of a new phase in the history of South Peninsula. Having completed all the preliminaries and formalities of starting the new school, Mr Hendricks left (as did Miss Fuchs) to start the Harold Cressy High School in Cape Town. Mr Joshua left to become the first principal of Alexander High School in Athlone.
A new principal for South Peninsula was appointed in July 1950. This was Mr AG de Villiers (later to become known by SP students as ‘Blom’), who remained principal until his retirement through ill health in 1967. Mr de Villiers brought with him from the school in Genadendal two new teachers to replace those who had left. They were Mr A Daniels and Mr RC Hepburn.
Mr de Villiers, a strict disciplinarian, and dedicated to the academic advancement of the underprivileged, was to develop the tradition (the indefinable SP tradition) among staff and students, which to a great extent still exists today.
The student pioneers of 1950 had to continue receiving instruction in the adverse conditions in Southfield for another 12 months before any relief from the cramped and unsuitable conditions was forthcoming. This came about in July 1951. A building which had been set aside for use as a ‘white’ primary school in (Old) Kendal Road was standing vacant. For various reasons the primary school did not materialize and the Cape Education Department agreed that South Peninsula High should occupy the premises.
By the time the school moved to (Old) Kendal Road, two more teachers, Mr WB (‘Waxy’) Daniels and Mr EW Adams, had been added to the staff. (Mr Lochner left in 1952 and later became the first principal of Steenberg High.) Up to 1953 there was only the main building as it stands today (a new, bigger staffroom was added and, more recently, four new classrooms above the office area). There were no pre-fabs, no Woodwork, Needlework or Home Economics Rooms. For practical classes students had to walk to a primary school in Diep River (Diep River Central) to receive instruction. (This was organised efficiently and with the minimum waste of time.)
During those formative years the main emphasis was on discipline and academic work. Even during intervals students had to have a book with them for studying purposes. Control over students was so strict that SP was referred to by many as ‘The Concentration Camp’. In those very early years sport played a minor role. In 1953 the school took part in the Inter-schools and colleges athletics competition for the first time and scored a grand total of 9 points – but changes were in the offing.
The year 1954 was the year of change. In that year the first Std 6s, totaling 81 students, were enrolled. They were divided into two classes. Two teachers, Miss E Haggis and Mr D Thebus, were appointed for these new classes. By 1954 the pre-fabs had been built (and are still there to this day!) and the school now possessed its own Needlework, Woodwork and Domestic Science (Home Economics) Rooms.
An important tradition was started in 1954. As a result of the humiliating defeat in the 1953 athletics competition, the staff decided to introduce the inter-house system in order to select the best athletes for the school team. However, this was not to be a slip-shod affair – it had to be properly organised and of a high standard. (As any SP student knows, this is still the case!) Within the space of four weeks students were organised into houses, houses were named (after the surrounding roads), war cries were composed, songs were practiced, colours were chosen, eliminations were held and the athletes were trained. Teachers were allocated to houses by drawing lots. The first inter-house meeting, held late in February 1954, and won by Mimosa House, was a rousing success. It started a tradition which has become a highlight of the school year.
As far as selecting the best athletes for the school team was concerned, the inter-house system paid off handsomely. In the 1954 inter-school competition SP scored the most points and won practically all the sectional trophies. In fact, the points scored by the SP girls’ team only were more than the total points scored by the school which was placed second! South Peninsula had proved that she could excel in academic work as well as in sport after only four years in existence.