Reunion of ‘unselfish’ class of 1985

Past Harold Cressy principal Victor Ritchie speaks to past pupils Melanie van der Schyff and Ayesha Samaai.

In the 1980s political unrest was rife in South Africa and the education of many school pupils took a backseat as they fought for political inclusivity.

The 1985 to 86 school pupils of Harold Cressy High school, who were at the coal face of political resistance, reunited on Saturday May 13 at the District Six Homecoming centre to re-account their shared experience.

Victor Ritchie, 93, who was the school principal at the time, and keynote speaker at the reunion, said that during the unrest in 1985 the Department of Education refused to pay the salaries of seven teachers on the last day of the month, because they had been considered to be too politically active and inciting student revolt.

Mr Ritchie explained how he called a meeting of all staff who pooled their salaries together so that all teachers went home with a salary.

“It was a unique year as all the students sacrificed that year and had to repeat the year because of the political unrest at the time. They sacrificed their matric year on principle, in support of the anti-apartheid struggle, an unselfish act.”

“The most interesting thing was the opening appeal that this was not a reunion to celebrate material, academic or business success but to remember the shared values that drove many to strive for ‘success’ in the face of apartheid pressures and to support comrade teachers who were arrested, dismissed or went unpaid,” said past pupil Enver Essop.

Teachers who have passed, on like Helen Kies, Peter Meyer and Maureen Adriaan, were fondly remembered and celebrated for their efforts.

Mr Essop said former students, including those who repeated a year or did poorly in subjects, remembered teachers with pride. He said it was the integrity, commitment and knowledge teachers had that mattered to their pupils.

Past pupil, Shahied Khan took those at the reunion down memory lane with the tales he recalled, while Derrick Naidoo ended the evening with an appeal for everyone to “live simply so that others may simply live” which resonated with the class.