Principal parts with Heathfield High

Heathfield High principal Mark Engelbrecht retired this year.

Heathfield High School principal Mark Engelbrecht will have some time to indulge his hobbies in the next few months as he has put down his chalk and opted for early retirement.

Born and raised in Heathfield, Mr Engelbrecht, 56, started teaching at Heathfield High School as a deputy principal in 1999, and served as principal since 2011.

Mr Engelbrecht said he always wanted to be a teacher and started out as a science teacher at Beacon Hill in Mitchell’s Plain in 1985.

“In fact, I was still teaching natural science up till the end of this year,” he said.

Mr Engelbrecht grew up in Gulliver Road, Heathfield.

“I lived there during my entire primary and high school years. I attended St Columba’s Boys’ High School and studied at the University of the Western Cape for my first year and completed my formal studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and, more recently, at the Graduate School of Business at UCT.”

Mr Engelbrecht started his career 33 years ago, straight out of university.

When asked how he felt about the education system and if it has changed over the years, he said: “There have been many changes over the years – the effects caused by the numerous changes in the curriculum and the process of rationalisation still resonates in the schools and this affects many aspects, some positive, some negative, in the life of the school. On the positive side, there has been a drive on the part of the WCED (Western Cape Education Department) to improve and increase the level of the use of technology in the learning process – the school is currently being provided with wi-fi and there have been numerous other technological upgrades at the school over the years,” he said.

“All schools nowadays face the same challenges such as large classes, disobedience and disrespect from children, substance abuse – we are no different, but, in spite of these difficulties, the school and staff still manage to provide an excellent education for the children passing through its doors. I believe, that, with the proper support from parents and the community, the school will continue to do so in the years to come.”

Mr Engelbrecht said the positive moments in his career have overshadowed the negatives. “I am exceptionally proud of the achievements of the Heathfield High community, the teaching staff, admin and support staff, the safety officers – all credit must go to these amazing people.

“One must not forget the parents who have tirelessly served on the governing body as well as the former pupils who are doing marvellous work in then newly-formed Alumni Association. I am amazed at how so many of the past pupils of the school have been so willing to give back so freely to the school. I believe that, with the continued support, the school cannot but go on from strength to strength. There are many exciting projects in progress right now – strategies to improve academic excellence, facilities upgrade, such as the proposed sport precinct – all in line with the aim of developing the potential of the children.”

Mr Engelbrecht has two children, a son and a daughter.

He will be keeping busy with his hobbies. “I have a few projects that I would like to get involved in, mostly in more of a consultative role. In the meantime I will have some more time to indulge in my favourite pastimes of photography, music and mountaineering.”

Mr Engelbrecht has fond memories of growing up in Heathfield in the 1960s and 1970s. “I have very good memories of my childhood and still remain in contact with many of my childhood friends in the neighbourhood.”