School’s dream is decades in the making

Groote Schuur High School is celebrating its 60th birthday

Groote Schuur High School started out as a dream in the 1930s but only materialised in 1959 – 60 years later – and the school is still working on that dream.

This was the message from principal Marius Ehrenreich at the school’s 60th jubilee service, on Friday February 1.

Mr Ehrenreich reflected on the past six decades and all the changes the school had gone through during that time.

The school was one of the first Afrikaans schools in the southern suburbs and one of the first to open its doors to other races.

The school was founded in 1959 as a co-educational Afrikaans High School, in the Vredenhof residence, now the Peter Clarke Art and Design Centre, in Newlands, with 37 pupils.

Over the years, pupil numbers have risen and after the addition of six extra classrooms in 2011, the numbers have grown to 940.

The present school building in Palmyra Road, Newlands, was inaugurated in June 1964. In 1978, Nassau High School amalgamated with Groote Schuur. In 1991 it became the first public Afrikaans high school in South Africa with a broad admissions policy. Dual-medium instruction was phased in from 1994.

During that year, a boarding establishment was also built for boys and girls, now named Monorgan House. Since 2011 all tuition at Groote Schuur High School has been in English only.

Mr Ehrenreich said part of the school’s early dream had been to become the Afrikaans equivalent of Bishops.

“GSHS never lacked the desire to improve, excel and also challenge. Our history is replete with such examples. Just as the 1970s context and reality created that dream, so too, does the reality of 50 years hence,” he said.

He thanked the school’s former leaders and his predecessors for what they had achieved during their tenure. “We acknowledge the leaders and Groote Schuur families as well as those from Nassau High School who managed to overcome the many stumbling blocks on the road to amalgamation. Today the Groote Schuur High School community stand together in recognition of those who shaped this institution, those who birthed this school, and those who birthed every plan to provide quality education to the pupils in their care,” said Mr Ehrenreich.

He said struggles with issues of class and privilege remained valuable and relevant today.

The service was led by Bishop Augustine Joemath from Moravian Hill, and Michelle Coetzee lit a candle in commemoration of the past six decades, as well as the seventh decade, which Mr Ehrenreich said symbolised the school’s ideals, determination and resolve for the school to remain true to its core values of integrity, belonging, growth, excellence, accountability, service and stewardship.

Circuit 10 manager Desiré Christians said the school had reached a milestone, from its humble beginnings in 1959 to the beautiful building the school was housed in today.

Ms Christians said she had engaged with the school’s staff over the past year and the pupils were luckily to have staff who genuinely cared.

She challenged the matric class of 2019 to end the school’s jubilee year on a high with a 100% matric pass rate.

Mr Ehrenreich said the past decade had been no less challenging, no less remarkable or no less significant. “We had to turn many corners, and some of these scared us. Yet Groote Schuur High School presented us with a canvas that screamed at us to create on it our understanding of education in 21st Century South Africa. Our canvas is looking good, for it shows a grounded appreciation of our rich history, heritage and diversity. The seventh decade demands much more from us.”

He said the school was excited about its partnership with Disa Primary School and the Disa Scholarship Programme; its Mandarin programme, which will produce the first matriculants in Mandarin in 2020; its recycling initiatives, and several service projects.

The school’s enrolment will also increase from the current 940 pupils to 1050 by 2023.

“The seventh decade also demands of us to be consistent in our striving for excellence in everything we do. It demands of us to practise and play on the A-field, to wear A-team attire, to speak the language and have conversations that are consistent with A-field expectations and desires,” said Mr Ehrenreich.