Principal off on a new adventure

Denzil van Graan with Grade 7 pupils, Andrea Cupido and Blessing Mfunu.

Perivale Primary School principal Denzil van Graan will be packing his bags and heading up the Garden Route to play the head role at Erika Primary School in Mossel Bay, next term.

Mr Van Graan said he woke up one morning and decided “that I am ready for a new adventure in my life”.

After 13 years as principal and 29 years of teaching, Mr Van Graan is happy about the legacy he is leaving at Perivale Primary School.

“I’m happy to say that in my tenure I’ve been able to see the school transform into a school of choice for the local and wider school community from areas such as Mitchell’s Plain and Retreat.”

Mr Van Graan’s passion for the community was reflected in his efforts to uplift the school and its pupils. “I’ve brought in a summer and winter uniform which I’m proud to say our parents have adopted and accepted. Our kids come to school neatly dressed. They also excel on the sport, cultural and academic fields.”

The school’s pupils are also worthy contenders in chess.

“Our chess team represented Western Province at the Western Cape Chess Championship last year in Worcester,” said Mr Van Graan.

Their netball teams were unbeaten last year.

In the municipal reading competitions the pupils reached top level. “We have over 90% pass rates every year in all grades. Last year we managed to place five pupils at Cafda School of Skills, who otherwise would have been candidates for school drop-outs. We’ve been able to reduce our drop-out rate. Most of our Grade 7s completed matric and have become the top matriculant performers at the high schools with top matriculant results in the last few years.”

Perivale Primary pupils are usually accepted at South Peninsula, Spine Road, Sans Souci Girls’, Bergvliet, Zeekoevlei and Fairmount high schools.

“We’ve also as a school forged sound relationships with non-profit organisations who assist the school in literacy, sport, pupils’ behaviour modification, counselling and life-skills.”

While Mr Van Graan makes sure his pupils excel he also strives to empower himself through education. “I completed the Post Graduate Diploma in Management Practice at UCT and studied modules on how to improve systems at school. I’ve taken a break from studying. I hope to start doing my Master’s on Education soon.”

The 50-year-old principal was born in Lotus River but grew up in Grassy Park.

“I attended Montagu’s Gift Primary School and completed my secondary education at Grassy Park High. Thereafter I attended Wesley College of Education and did my fourth year part time at Hewat College of Education. I also completed the Advanced Certificate in Education at the University of Cape Town (UCT).”

Mr Van Graan said he became a teacher as he wanted to “make a difference in the lives of our communities”.

“Back in the late 80s study opportunities with bursaries were limited. My father was the sole breadwinner while my mom remained at home to look after us. Money and therefore opportunities to do tertiary studies were limited. But I’m not sorry that I studied teaching. I learn from children every day and to be a sup-
port, and encourager brings me great
joy. I love sport and am always
proud when athletes excel and get selected to represent Western Province.”

Teaching runs in his family from his mother’s side. “They reside mostly in Grabouw and it seems the interest and influence to become a teacher definitely came from that side of my family.”

When asked what message he would want to send to the communities of Ottery, Lotus River and Parkwood, whose children attend the school, he said. “They should not be sad, but elated (that he’s leaving). I have now the opportunity to make an impact in another community. I urge our parents and community to support pupil intervention programmes and build sound relationships with the children’s educators.”

Mr Van Graan was always in tune with the needs of the community and he was active in uplifting

“My dream was and remains that our pupils and parents use education as a vehicle to overcome the severe obstacles they encounter daily.

“I also desire them to become examples of success and thereby break the cycle of poverty, dependence on government grants and to become self sustainable.”

Besides teaching, Mr Van Graan has other hobbies.

“I love reading, mountaineering and watching sport, be it live or on the television.”

While teaching at Perivale Primary School, Mr Van Graan experienced his share of challengers. However, he did not sit on his laurels and addressed problems head-on.”The aesthetic appearance of the school was important. The school is 54 years old and in dire need of replacement,” he said.

Mr Van Graan experienced lots of positive support during his time at the school.

”I’m extremely thankful for the support, loyalty and dedication shown by staff over the years. Staff are always optimistic and excited to create new opportunities to develop our learners. I’m also grateful to the education officials who, throughout, supported the school and provided assistance to improve the academic results of the school. I’m thankful to the student governing body (SGB) who over the years did their utmost to fulfil their tasks and responsibilities and helped to improve discipline.

“I’m thankful to parents who through their support of fund-raisers, attendance at parent meetings and teacher – parent consultations show that they have the interest of the school at heart. We have a vibrant, innovative and enthusiastic staff complement and I am excited for the new senior management team that I’m sure will take the school to new and greater heights.

“The deputy principal Daniver Jansen will act in my post and I know he will continue to strengthen the existing systems and ethos of the school.”

Mr Van Graan will be heading off to Mossel Bay on his own at first and his family will soon follow.

He said he still has a lot of energy and was fortunate to be blesed with good health.

“With God’s grace and mercy. I intend to work till 60,” said Mr Van Graan.