Kannemeyer Primary School (KPS), the first public school in Grassy Park, celebrated its 60th anniversary, this year, with a special award, The Flamingo Award, handed to Professor Jonathan Jansen, on Friday December 10.
Other guests at the ceremony were circuit manager Thandeka Jafta, former manager and master of ceremonies Faldiela Chotia, school governing body chair Selwyn Page, deputy SGB chair Salie Nasiep, former SGB chair Tracy Faro, SGB member Luqmaan Isaacs, WCED officials, and the KPS teachers and staff.
The school ended a challenging year on a high note when principal Ridwan Samodien presented the award to whom he described as a national hero in the field of education.
“Professor Jansen’s tireless and courageous efforts to provide each and every #SAKlevaKid (South African child) with quality educational opportunities and resources have been recognised with this award,” Mr Samodien said.
Professor Jansen is a Distinguished Professor of Education at the University of Stellenbosch, and is currently president of the South African Academy of Science and the Knight-Hennessey Fellow at Stanford University in the USA.
His most recent books include two edited collections, South African Schooling: The Enigma of inequality and Decolonization in universities: The politics of knowledge.
Mr Samodien said: “We are honoured that the prof has accepted the Flamingo Award.
“Our vision is to become a world class educational institution. As such, we needed to place ourselves on the national arena first. Through being the birthplace of the now nationally recognised Partners for Possibility Programme, we felt that a national award, honouring a hero in the national educational arena would be most fitting.
“Through a collaboration with now the former director of the District 6 museum, and late thinking coach, Siddeeq Railoon, the idea of making such a national award was born.”
Mr Samodien said the idea was first conceptualised with a certificate of gratitude, honouring all those who through the kind efforts of Professor Jansen, “contributed and saved our beloved KPS, from the potential financial meltdown brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Mr Samodien said he calls Professor Jansen, “the Father of all of South Africa’s Children”.
Professor Jansen praised the school, saying he would like to make a photocopy of the school’s operation and introduce it to other schools. “I have had the privilege to travel to probably 2 000 or 3 000 schools, I can’t keep count, in the nine provinces.
“There is something about Kannemeyer, and I wish I could photocopy this school. This school stands out because of leadership. Not only Mr Samodien, but also the collective leadership of everyone at school.”
Professor Jansen said: “At the height of the pandemic he (Mr Samodien) called me up, and he said, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to pay the governing body staff’. I called around and got him some money. If you are in a school like this, you don’t have the privileges of private schools, so grab this opportunity.”
Ms Chotia, who also retired as circuit manager in August, said: “It’s been my privilege to work with Mr Samodien as principal of KPS from 2008 until 2019. He is a proactive, exemplary school leader who has managed to take KPS to new heights.
“We worked together well as he embraced the various initiatives we embarked on to ensure the children at KPS were exposed to the best opportunities possible . The school had no school hall in 2008. Mr Samodien, always being positive and proactive, raised the need for a school hall on the Mandela Day celebration. The school received a school hall through the collaboration of WCED and Garden Cities.”
Kannemeyer Primary was the first public school, while EC Primary, situated a stone throw away, was the first church school in Grassy Park.
Mr Samodien said the first acting principal was Mr EA Janari, who had a school named after him in Bonteheuwel.
“He was followed by Mr Burton in the second term; Frank Goliath, who became principal of Perivale Primary later in his career, in the third term; and finally the first permanently appointed principal, Albert Kannemeyer. He managed to rename Park Primary, as it was called then, after his family name, and hence today we are known as Kannemeyer Primary.”
Mr Kannemeyer, was followed by Edward Carels as principal. He was, in turn, led by Ebrahim Allie, Edmund Davids, and current principal Mr Samodien.
More than 60 years ago, the Apartheid regime gave birth to the first public school to be built in this neighbourhood, “designed for coloured children”, he said.
He added: “I recall the cisterns’ lids had been embossed or engraved with the wording ‘Skool vir kleurling kinders’.”
“It is important that we know where we come from, what struggles we endured and what lessons we can and have learnt, so that we can sharpen our focus on the future.”
Reflecting on the impact of Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival in Cape Town in 1652 he noted that: “(He) colonised the lands of our ancestors. This was followed with more brutality when our forefathers were brought here as slaves, and then compounded later by the abhorrence racist system of apartheid.
“These systems traumatised us. We as South Africans have received a triple blow, our forefathers endure colonisation, slavery, apartheid and of late endemic and systemic corruption, robbing our children of a brighter future.”
Being mindful of the challenges, Mr Samodien said “we have deliberately adopted the African philosophy of Ubuntu”.
The school has also created a visual learning zone. “We have ensured that our corridors, our classrooms and most recently our classroom doors, speak to the circle of courage, that they speak to our children and tell them that they matter.”
Mr Samodien said the school encourages reading and so they have forged partnerships with organisations which are ”geared to assist us in developing a love for reading and reading with understanding”.
Mr Samodien said he was inspired by former president Nelson Mandela’s quote: “Education remains the most powerful weapon one can use to rid oneself from poverty.”