Ferndale Primary celebrates its new hall

Arthur Lewis at the new school hall.

After 124 years, Ferndale Primary School in Ottery will be opening the doors to their new school hall on Wednesday April 25, at 7pm.

Principal Arthur Lewis said their pupils will finally be able to boast that their school has an essential facility that many other schools in the province consider normal to have. Mr Lewis said the hall was one of nearly 100 that have been built by the Garden Cities Archway Foundation, which has been partnered by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) to help build the halls that now cost upward of R6.5 million each.

Mr Lewis thanked all the role- players involved in the launch of the hall, especially their staff. “I thank my staff for supporting me 100 % in drawing up the proposal for the hall.”

Mr Lewis recounted the history of Ferndale Primary. “It can be traced back to a wood and iron structure known as the ‘School house’ registered with the Cape School Board in 1894 as Wynberg Flats Public School. And although today it has classrooms and other vital facilities for a holistic education, it took a major effort to provide it with a school hall over a century after its establishment. It was one of more than 600 in the Western Cape still without a hall.”

Group CEO of developer, Garden Cities, John Matthews, who established the Archway Foundation 13 years ago, said Ferndale was one of the schools that stood out for its dedication to academic excellence in difficult circumstances.

“It’s very much the kind of school that the Archway Foundation in its partnership with the WCED, feels justified in providing a hall. Our work goes on, and we have a long way to go, but it’s gratifying to help schools like Ferndale Primary,” he said.

The 664 children who attend the school certainly keep their end of the bargain. They have an excellent academic record, with maths a particularly shining example of their hard work and the teaching skills at the award-winning school.

In 2009, Mr Lewis, the principal for the past 14 years, was recognised by the National Teaching Awards for Excellence in Primary School Leadership.

The first teacher at the school was the famous Ms Rudkin who eventually became principal in 1909. She was appointed to teach mainly German speaking children from the Philippi and Ottery farming communities. Pupils between the ages of five and 14 were taught in the same classroom, while sitting on the floor.

Mr Lewis said during World War I, the school got its first official building which consisted of two classrooms and a small staff room. The toilets were in nearby outbuildings. The playground consisted of sand, weeds and Port Jackson trees. There was an additional staff of two teachers, known as Mrs Lawrence and Miss Swarts.

In the ensuing years, the school had seven principals at various stages in its development until 2004 after which Mr Lewis took over the principal’s chair.

Mr Lewis said he was the first person of colour to work at the school.

Mr Lewis joined the staff as deputy principal on 1 October 1999 and was appointed as principal on 1 January 2005.

The school had a change of name to Ottery Primary, a dual-medium school with classes in English and Afrikaans. From 1954 to 1962 the school building was enlarged to cater for the growing number of pupils who lived in the developing Ottery suburb. In 1962 a Foundation Phase wing with special classes and new toilets were added.

In 1982, when a Mr Oosthuizen was the principal, Ottery Primary School officially became Ferndale Primary School. In 1983 the first pre-primary class and tennis courts were added.

During that decade, seven prefabricated classrooms and a garage were erected and in 1987 steps were taken to amalgamate Springfield Primary in Philippi with Ferndale Primary School. In 1991, Ferndale Primary School became a Model-C school and pupils of all races were enrolled in the previously “white” school. In 1994, four new classrooms were built.

The 1990s saw the shrinking of the Afrikaans medium classes. By 2000, Ferndale Primary became an English medium school.