Saluting a champion for the oppressed

Mogamat Shahied Jacobs

Bayar Laattoe, Dryden Street Primary School, Salt River

The Dryden Street Primary School (DSPS) community extends their sincere condolences to Rugaya Jacobs, the family, friends and acquaintances of Mogamat Shahied Jacobs, who passed away in January.

Mogamat Shahied Jacobs had a long and illustrious relationship with DSPS. His children (Fatima, Yasier, Imraan, Faiez and Yasmeen) all attended DSPS and he often joked and said some of the uppity residents of Salt River asked him why he sent his children to “that school”?

Mr Jacobs’s interaction with DSPS began in the turbulent period of the educational unrests of the 1980s – a continuation and an intensification of the 1976 Soweto uprising. The governance structures of the schools at local, provincial as well as at national levels were being severely questioned and undermined.

Progressive education bodies were calling for the establishments of democratically elected Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) at primary schools and Parent-Teacher-Student Associations (PTSAs) at high schools to replace the “lackey” appointed school committees. Mr Jacobs was Dryden’s first elected chairperson of the PTA.

Mr Jacobs played a pioneering role in transforming the school. Towards the latter half of the 1980s Dryden, undermined Apartheid laws by accepting the first pupils who were not classified as Indian or Coloured. At approximately the same time, Dryden elected their first Black female onto their governing structure – a move that did not sit well with the Coloured Affairs Department CAD). The principal at that time, Mr B Manter, had his probationary period extended because of this.

Mr Jacobs held the reins firmly during this time when CAD tried to force their draconian (and the Nationalist Party’s) Apartheid policies onto schools.

Nowadays, June 16 is celebrated as a public holiday. During the 1980s it was a revolutionary act to celebrate the Soweto Uprising. Mr Jacobs supported the closure of the school to celebrate the June 16 Uprising. Mr Jacobs enjoyed these “skirmishes” with the Coloured Affairs Education Department’s lackey inspectors.

After the historic elections of 1994, and the constituting of the SA Schools Act of 1996, School Governing Bodies (SGBs) were instituted to oversee the running of schools. It was a foregone conclusion that Mr Jacobs would lead the governing body.

The Jacobs family literally lived 20 paces from the school – at the top (southern) end of Fenton Road. Whenever the school required cutlery or crockery or food that needed to be warmed (pre-microwave days), Mr Jacobs would say:”Vra vir ‘Gaya’!” and Ms “Gaya” Jacobs always obliged.

Their union was of the proverbial “made in heaven” stuff. Ms Jacobs was the quiet pillar of strength that complemented Mr Jacobs’s servitude leadership style.

Besides the hours and hours, Mr Jacobs dedicated to meetings and advice sessions at Dryden, he also oversaw an electric siren to replace the hand bell, a computer lab which bears his name and sections of the playground that were paved.

Mr Jacobs had to vacate his position on the SGB when his last born, Yasmeen, completed Grade 7. Yet, this did not lessen his commitment to Dryden.

Mogamat Shahied Jacobs will fondly be remembered as a level-headed, unassuming leader who championed the needs of the oppressed, marginalised and down-trodden. May he be granted a high station in the Hereafter and may the Almighty place contentment in the hearts of his family, relatives, friends, business colleagues and those who grieve.

Dryden is immensely proud of you, and we salute you!