Irista Primary School celebrates its 35th anniversary this year. Long-serving teachers at the school say it is the Sarepta school’s principals who have taken the school to “great heights”.
Principals like the late Abraham Roode, said Grade 1 teacher Eunice Titus.
“He had a vision for the school,” she said.
Mr Roode was the first principal at the school. He was a strict disciplinarian, yet one of the most popular at the school.
Retired teacher, Des Wakefield, was there with him when Irista first opened.
Before the first pupils arrived in July 1982, Ms Wakefield and her colleagues had worked at neighbouring schools, Jan Bosman and Sarepta.
The children living closest to the school were supposed to have transferred with the teachers but Ms Wakefield said something very different happened instead.
“That time the teachers there, they had to give us the children that lived near the school but they kept the best children. The difficult children they sent to us,” she said.
But this did not deter Mr Roode. He went to meet the pupil’s parents to get to the root of their “difficulties”.
“Hy was ’* gemeenskaps mens,” Ms Titus said. “Hy het die kinders geken en die ouers geken en hy was een van daai oud hoofde wat in die pad gery het en huisbesoek gaan doen, want hy het geglo dat as jy die kind se omstandighede ken, dan weet jy hoekom die kind anderste reageer.”
The school also had the challenge of teachers having come from different schools with varied cultures, Ms Wakefield said, but Mr Roode put that division to bed early.
“He told us that first day, we may have come from different schools but we were going to work as one group, together. And that helped because later, teachers from Jan Bosman and Sarepta, they came to us for advice,” she said.
“Hy was ’* baie goeie hoof,” said Grade 3 teacher Pauline Davids, adding that he had had high standards, which had set the school apart in those early years.
He would often be seen with a hose pipe, washing the school’s courtyards.
“Ons het respek gehad. Ons was bang, maar dit was ’* mooi bang. Jy trap in jou lyn want jy weet waar die lyn is,” said Ms Titus. And any ideas that were out of sync with the school’s culture were nipped in the bud, Ms Davids said.
Foundation phase head of department Desiree Coerecius’s nipping happened in her job interview when she came wearing a sun dress. Mr Roode firmly told her she would need to change her dress code.
“Want hier is ons baie professioneel’ het hy gesê,” she said laughing. Ms Davids, showing off her knee-length skirt and knee-high boots, said: “Soos ek nou aan het, Mr Roode sou sê, ‘Ek soek nie cowboys en crooks nie.’ Die mans moes ’* das en ’* pak aan gehad het.”
Ms Titus said: “Toe ek begin het in 1985, in daai tyd, al is dit somer, dan het ons aan gehad pantihose met sandals. Jy kom nie hier met kaal bene nie,” she said, adding to the laughter.
The dress code, however, has eased up over the years and with it has also come many other changes, some which the teachers have welcomed and others which they dislike. A positive change was the school’s library.
“Die biblioteek het ons voor gewerk. Ons het dit self gebou,” Ms Titus said, explaining that the school had raised funds for the building work. “En ons het dit opgedra aan Meneer Jansen.”
Archie Jansen was another of the school’s esteemed principals.
“Hy het ook die skool tot hoogte geneem,” said Ms Davids, adding that he had treated the school as if it were a model C school. As a result the school had earned consistently high evaluation ratings.
Something staff say they are no so pleased about are the changes they say they have noticed in pupils’ and parents’ attitudes.
“Daai tyd was die kinders nog kinders,” said Ms Titus. “Die kinders het verander, want buitekant het die omstandighede baie verander.”
Poverty is a big factor affecting the children’s education, the teachers say, because some of the pupils can’t afford basic stationery.
Ms Titus said that often teachers helped out where they could, saving money over the school holidays and letting each other know where stationery specials were to be had so they could buy supplies for needy pupils.
“Jy weet die omstandighede waaruit die kinders kom. Daar is baie kere waar die ouers nie aan die kind kan versorg nie, dan maak die teacher ’* plan. Hulle is ma, pa, selfs predikant. Ons doen dit uit liefde uit,” Ms Titus said.
One of the things the teachers regret is that parent involvement at the school has dwindled. They hope the upcoming carnival, a bumper carnival for a bumper anniversary, will remedy that.
“Ons hoop die carnival sal daai bond tussen die skool en die gemeenskap versterk want die oudleerders is nou jou ouers,” Ms Titus said.
They have invited past pupils and teachers to take part in a memory stall at the carnival, which needs old photographs, newspaper clippings and other memorabilia linked to the school. If you can help, contact the school on 021 903 3987.