The University of Cape Town will rename its Palm Court Residence in Mowbary in honour of Harold Cressy, who was the first coloured person to gain a degree in South Africa at the then South African College, which later became UCT.
Mr Cressy graduated at the end of 1910 and obtained a BA degree. In 1912, he was appointed principal of Trafalgar Public School, the only school at the time to offer coloured students an education at secondary level.
He was born at Rorke’s Drift, Northern Natal, in 1889. Mr Cressy took the lead in establishing the Teachers League of South Africa (TLSA) and in 1913 he was elected the first president of the TLSA at its inaugural conference in June of that year.
He served as joint editor of the league’s educational journal. He was an educational activist who worked tirelessly to improve education for black South Africans.
When Cape Town Secondary School was renamed in 1953, Mr Cressy’s name was chosen and the school was named Harold Cressy High School. The school was declared a provincial heritage site in 2014.
The UCT Council approved the renaming of the building in recognition of Mr Cressy’s contribution to education.
Khalied Isaacs, current principal at Harold Cressy High School, said: “We were very proud and touched that the legacy of Harold Cressy and what he symbolises is being honoured by an institution as esteemed as UCT. As a school, we have honoured the values he stood for since the school adopted his name in 1953.”
Mr Isaacs was touched by the words of one of the speakers at at a special ceremony on Tuesday evening October 3 to acknowledge the renaming of Palm Court Residence.
“One of the speakers put it best when he said to the family members who were present: ‘Thank you for giving us the name of Harold Cressy and thank you even more for giving us the person himself and his values and legacy’.
“That sums up how we feel as a school as he has been a role model to our learners, staff and community. Long may his legacy live on in the halls of education,” a proud Mr Isaacs said.