Queen’s Park High turns 135 years old

Back from left, are Queens Park High former pupils Martin Magugu and Grant Sollins and acting deputy principal Zerena Barendilla. Front: former teacher Shelley Brown, acting principal Nicolene Abrahams and teacher Lee-Anne Smith.

Queen’s Park High School in Woodstock is celebrating its 135th anniversary.

The school opened in 1884 at the Scottish Presbyterian Church Hall. Neil MacKay was the first principal.

Originally known as Woodstock High School it moved to the Masonic Hall Building in 1892 and then, in 1905, to its current premises in Balfour Street off Roodebloem Road.

It was named Queen’s Park High in 1955.

Shelley Brown, who taught there from 1973 until her retirement in 2009, recalls how there were only 12 to 13 children in each class in 1973.

“At that stage, close to half the pupils were Portuguese,” she said, noting that Upper Woodstock had a large Portuguese community then.

During the 1976 Soweto Uprising, she said, Queen’s Park High had been under threat of being burnt down as it had been seen as a “white school”, and male staff had kept watch over the premises at night.

It was only in 1990 that the school adopted a non-racial admissions policy.

Acting principal Nicolene Abrahams has taught at the school since 1996, when there were 295 pupils. Today there are 450.

“The type of pupils that come to our school has changed,” she said, noting that most of the pupils had previously come from the immediate neighbourhood but now about 60% came from further afield, including Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Delft, Blackheath, Milnerton, Mitchell’s Plain, Hanover Park, Bonteheuwel and Langa.

The children of African refugees were also welcomed at the school, she said.

Acting deputy principal Zerena Barendilla said the school would like to start a feeding scheme for undernourished pupils, develop its sports fields and set up computers in the library.

Grant Sollons matriculated from Queen’s Park in 2005 and now teaches there.

“I have been to four schools in my career and hopefully I can retire at this school now,” he said.

Another alumni, Martin Magugu, of Mandalay, now works for a non-profit helping young people.

He urged former pupils to help the school.

“I think the school has meant so much to us, we are where we are today because of the school,” he said.

The school is appealing to former pupils to support its efforts to hold an anniversary celebration in February.

Email Lee-Anne Kleintjes at cozmical@gmail.com or call
081 465 6203 for more information.