School celebrates 110th birthday

Holy Cross Primary School Grade 1s with handmade crosses outside their school on the day of the 110th anniversary.

Holy Cross Primary School in District Six celebrated its 110th anniversary last Friday, paying tribute to those who have been part of its history.

The school was first known as Holy Mission School when four nuns opened it on January 24 1910 and started a coloured mission in Cape Town. To accommodate the growing number of pupils, the school at the present-day site was built in 1933.

The second storey was added to the parish centre in Nile Street in 1959, and pupil numbers continued to grow – there were almost 900 by the end of 1969.

Today the school has 580 pupils in grades R to 7 and most travel from far- flung parts of the city.

Nomthandazo Zweni, who was appointed principal two years ago, said she was glad to be part of such an important milestone in the school’s history.

“There were many challenges experienced, though, as I look at the school now, the peace, joy and love that we receive from the community, parents and education department and the excitement the young pupils are showing makes it a good place to be,” she said.

To mark the anniversary, pupils made their own crosses and attended a mass, held by Father Hugh O’ Connor and Father Gerado Garcia, at the Holy Cross Church.

Stephen Henkel is the school’s longest-serving teacher. He’s been at Holy Cross for 33 years.

“Teaching over the years from when I first started has been easier as the children are more focused on their work, though in the past few years, it has been different as many of the pupils who come to school use it as a break from their homes so we as teachers need to get them focused,” he said.

Former Holy Cross pupil Martina Gordon, of District Six, went full circle when she became a teacher at the very school she had once attended as a pupil. In those days, she said, most of the teachers had been nuns.

“Under the nuns we had order and structure and education based on values,” she said.

But the school’s intrinsic nature hadn’t changed, she said, and as a teacher she felt a strong responsibility to champion what Holy Cross stood for.

“It is still Holy Cross and it’s important for us as educators to have a strong culture of goodness and ‘doing the right thing’ in our teaching.”

In recent years, the school has suffered several tragic blows — including the death of a pupil, Liyabona Mbaba, in 2018, a fire in 2019 that destroyed the library and the mugging of several teachers — but you don’t make it to 110 without a fighting spirit, and Holy Cross has shown that it is nothing if not resilient.

Last Saturday, the school opened its new Liyabona Library, named after the pupil who was killed in a taxi crash in 2018.

And the City of Cape Town has now agreed to fence land between the school and the N2 which pupils have used as their makeshift playground.