With chants of “Once a Zeekoevleinian, Always a Zeekoevleinian” echoing through the corridors of the Zeekoevlei High in Lotus River, William Prinsloo, walked past the office he occupied for 20 years through a guard of honour for the last time as principal
Prinsloo, 65, was given an auspicious send-off on Thursday February 1, when he bid the school community farewell, leaving behind a legacy of serving the sprawling community for more than four decades as a loyal educator.
Former colleagues, pupils, and members of the community paid tribute in song, speeches, while staff member, Sherise Wyeth rendered a solo saxophone rendition of the The Impossible Dream while Mr Prinsloo took the stage to share several anecdotes.
He vividly remembered when he walked into the school as a young University of the Western Cape graduate in 1982, ready to take on the world. He would, two years later, be confronted by the Apartheid government police who arrested the entire school community and staff under the State of Emergency laws.
“We had to use the class list to get the pupils out of the Grassy Park police station cells until late in the evening to secure their safety. But those were the dark days of apartheid,” he recalled.
Under huge applause from especially former colleagues, he reminisced how they used to “fight” for athletes to run for red, yellow, blue or for his beloved green house at highly emotionally charged inter-house meetings. And then inter-schools meetings, which generated major excitement amongst the broader school community at the Athlone stadium where Zeekoevlei would on occasions end tops.
“While my family and the new principal who is taking over from me does not know, I am letting you know I will be back at the school. I have signed in triplicate the necessary documents to be back at the school on Monday, yes as the school’s athletics coach. I want to taste victory for just one more time,” he said to much laughter.
“The only regret I have. I leave this community with a building I entered on January 15 1982 with little or no improvements made to it and as you can see, after so many promises from the Western Cape Education Department the building is in a poor state of repair,” said Mr Prinsloo.
According to Mr Prinsloo, the school buildings have deteriorated to such an extent that it has become a safety and security risk.
“We regularly had to maintain the building structures ourselves by replacing some sections of the prefabricated building with brick-blocks which we have acquired with outside funding and donations from ex-learners. This has also meant that we had to use some of our hard-earned funds or school fees for the extras involved in the re-building,” he added.
He also made a passionate plea to the education department to employ more admin staff to ease the administrative burden on principals.
He plans to travel South Africa “plat” and to pursue his passion for table tennis as an active and proud nationally ranked table tennis player where he still participates in the highly demanding and competitive First League competitions and as an umpire.
Mr Prinsloo is a highly acclaimed international umpire and has already officiated in 2007 All Africa Games in Algeria.
“I am also a member of the African Table Tennis Federation where I serve on the Umpires and Referees committee. I have also officiated locally and nationally as a Referee at major table tennis tournaments. In 2010 I officiated as an International Umpire at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. Last year I was awarded the prestigious blue badge status as an umpire. This means I am eligible to umpire at this year’s Olympics Games in France.”