40-year wait for school hall finally ends

Ayliyile Mnyanda; first principal Ernest Manasse; current principal, Gavin Alkana; chairperson of Garden Cities Archway Foundation, Myrtle February, and William Noch.

Hillwood Primary School, in Lavender Hill, proudly opened the doors to their new school hall on Saturday June 11.

The school had waited for 40 years to have a hall and they were able to see this dream realised thanks to the Garden Cities’ Archway Foundation, which has already built 67 halls at disadvantaged schools.

Guest speakers at the event included chairperson of the Archway Foundation, Myrtle February; former pupil, Dr Andrew Barnes; and former teachers, Keith Klein and Ivor Nober.

Before the speeches, a video clip of the past principals was played.

Current principal, Gavin Alkana, praised Garden Cities for helping to build the school hall.

“Thousands of teachers in the Western Cape spent their entire careers at schools that are under-resourced to the extent that many find the challenge to provide pupils with the holistic education they deserve, quite overwhelming.

“For the past 11 years a foundation (Archway Foundation) funded by Cape Town’s oldest and largest residential development company (Garden Cities) has done its best to alleviate the enormous shortfall of one of the most essential resources teachers believe are pivotal to a good education – a school hall.”

Hillwood Primary School’s first principal, Ernest Manasse said: “I started at the school in 1976 and it has been a 40-year journey to get the hall and through moral and physical support, we will grow. We will stumble and make mistakes but we will be active and innovative as well.”

Ms February praised the school, when she walked into the hall, for their attention to detail in the way they set up the space and organised the children to welcome the guests. “Success starts with the little things,” she said.

“I am also glad that you honoured the old principals because you can only build on the shoulders of those who had gone before. This hall has been given because you deserve it and you’ve earned it.”

Mr Klein said he was only at the school for a brief time but he shared some of his memories. “I came from a secondary school and the first Monday I arrived at the school, a few children ran to me and hugged me. I didn’t understand this behaviour and wanted to push them away. But it only shows the love the kids have for the educators.”

He also had to deal with the gang shootings in the area. He said after the first shooting incident he experienced, he had doubts about whether he should return to the school. “I was really rolling around in bed wondering if I should go back,” said Mr Klein.

He said he realised that while he had a choice to not return to the school, the pupils lived in the area and had no choice about being there. “So I went back,” he said.

Dr Barnes, who was the main guest speaker, said: “Three short memories and one message. When I attended this school I failed Grade1. I repeated it. Then I was promoted to Grade 2, but I failed that year. I repeated it. My mother needed to make a decision to put me in a remedial class. She did not place me. She placed her confidence in me. I finished school without failing again. I went for my first, second and third degree and then my fourth – a PhD degree obtained the Netherlands.”

He said the moral of the story is: “If you have a little Andrew – give him the benefit of the doubt and he will grow up and exceed everyone’s expectations.”