About Us

A Trip Down Memory Lane

In November 1980. Mr Q.J.J. van Wyk was appointed as acting headmaster of the new English High school. The construction of Sasol II at that stage, and later Sasol III, had created a population explosion in this area, and Evander High School, which was parallel medium, could no longer cope with the growing number of “English” speaking pupils.

Actually, at this time it was a misnomer to call them “English” speaking, as there were twenty-two different nationalities represented and many of them spoke no English at all!

The planning of an English High School was undertaken by two enthusiasts – Mr G.H.J. Visser (the circuit inspector) and Dr D.R. Day (works manager at Sasol), who brought a wealth of experience in school board matters with him from Sasolburg.

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The high school was a natural development as the English Primary School, Highveld Ridge, was well underway and had already enrolled 400 pupils. Conditions in Secunda were rough and tough. Few roads were tarred and the mud was thick and sticky. Mr Balios, bursting with energy, was appointed the first principal of the primary school and arrived in an Alpha Spider and left in a four-wheel-drive jeep.

The long association between Sasol (and in the early days, Fluor) and the schools began when Dr Day was asked to help with transporting several loads of equipment for the new primary school from the Trichardt station. George Balios eagerly expected desks and writing material. Fluor sent a truck to the station, but instead of finding stationery, found over 400 trees and shrubs, which some eager departmental official had supplied. Nothing daunted; George Balios sold the shrubs and trees to new garden owners in Secunda and opened his school with a credit balance in the school funds.

The new high school was to be temporarily located in the old pre-fab Winkelhaak Mine School in Evander. At that time we did not realize that this “temporary” was to be five years permanent.

On the first day – 7 February 1981 – there were six teachers and two hundred and eighteen pupils. The very first pupil to be enrolled was Ann Smit. Amongst the first pupils were children who spoke Portuguese, French, Danish, Italian, Greek, German, Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew and Polish.

Ms Yvonne Streicher tells how, on that first morning she arrived fresh from College, full of enthusiasm, lessons all prepared. She was given a huge bunch of keys and told to try and find a door that she could unlock so she could get into a classroom. The pupils sat patiently on the kerbstones while teachers tried frantically to find the right key for the resistant, rusty locks.

After the doors were opened pupils were set to work dusting and sweeping. Supplies from the Department were eagerly anticipated and the sight of a delivery van was a great event. Toilet paper arrived before writing paper; two washing machines arrived before we had electricity.  The first textbooks were in Afrikaans instead of English, musical instruments and silk screen printers arrived before desks.  There was a fair amount of chaos.

By March 1981 things had settled down and the school was running fairly smoothly.  A competition was held to choose a name for the school.  South East high was chosen and the motto was to be Strength, Energy and Honesty.  The name was rejected by the school committee as from a distance it was thought that S.E.H on a T-shirt might too closely resemble S.E.X.!

Ten prefects were appointed. Mr van Wyk believed in giving trouble makers responsible jobs and so “reforming” them.  Some of the 7C boys were made prefects with disastrous results.  There was still no school uniform.  Pupils were instructed to wear neat casual clothes or their previous school uniforms.

“Neat casual” was open to carious interpretations, so it was a motley gathering of our first “ceremony” on Republic Day 27 May 1981.  By this time, future Heads of Department, Ms. M. MacGregor, and Ms O Peel joined the staff as had the future Deputy Principal, Ms L Day.

The 13th August 1981 saw the beginning of a new era with the arrival of the new principal, Mr Sakkie de Jager. Mr de Jager bounced into the school and proceeded to “sweep clean”. He soon had us all running around in circles setting up subject files, personal files, textbook controls, etc. Staff were almost lost in the flurry of paperwork. There were only fourteen staff members and Mr de Jager begged, bribed and drove us to become highly organized. The newspaper reported: “Mr de Jager says that his very first task is to make his teaching staff a happy and satisfied one” — well, he certainly made it a busy one.

This August also marked the appearance of our uniform. Our pupils were transformed from a scruffy collection of individuals to a symphony of green and brown. Our pride knew no bounds. The school badge was designed and the well- known poet, Douglas Livingstone kindly agreed to write the school song. The words lived up to our expectations, despite Livingstone’s accompanying letter saying that he hoped it wasn’t too “square” for us.

From the school song, we took our motto: Virtue, Valour. Vision.

The arrival of a school hall meant a welcome farewell to outside assemblies. The first time we used the hall was on Spring Day — despite the fact that the hall was incomplete with half a ceiling and a concrete floor. The Spring celebrations were rather premature as just one week later, we were plunged into a snowstorm. Pupils watched with mounting excitement as rain turned to sleet, then to real snow. It piled up deeper and deeper. Finally, classes were let out and 7C built a huge snowman.

Our cardboard school was transformed into a winter wonderland with snow crystals glittering on the spring blossoms. The next day only fifty children came to school as many roads were impassable. The only heating in the school was a coal-burning stove in each classroom. Attempts to light these resulted in lessons being abandoned until classrooms cleared of smoke. We put the pupils in the Media Centre and showed them a film while they huddled up and tried to stay warm.

1982 Saw the school growing in numbers, confidence and status. Some highlights were: our first interhouse swimming gala, an extremely successful first Miss Highveld Park pageant, an event which turned our drab little hall into a glittering arena for sophisticated girls. The first winner of the title was Hettie van der Vijver.

Sporting activities were well under way too. Thanks to the kindness of Evander High School we were able to use their playing fields, so the big trek across the road to the playing fields took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Sasol and Fluor undertook to level our own grounds so that at least there would be a place for games at break times. An official from the works department arrived and was horrified to find this improvement. He promptly told Sasol “to put it all back”. Sasol agreed but said they required a plan of the original site. No more was heard from the works department!

We had our first panel inspection in October of 1982 and were relieved to find that we were well on our way to establishing a sound academic tradition in this area.

By the beginning of 1983 we had begun to outgrow our pre-fab school. Once more Sasol came to the rescue and sent us two pre-fab houses. One became the immigrant Afrikaans department and the other provided H.O.D offices and sick rooms.

The headline in the local newspaper on 4 February 1983 reads: “Are the English speaking community to be disappointed again?” It seems we were. The pre-fab school was to be renovated as not enough funds were available for the construction of the new school building.

Nothing daunted, the school continued to grow and institute many activities that were to become part of our tradition. St Valentine” Day was celebrated, the second Miss Highveld Park evening was held, our sports teams began to win matches, and we won the local Drama festival again. We also welcomed our first Rotary exchange student — Marlene Punton from Australia.

A sobering event was the news of the promotion of Mr de Jager to circuit inspector. It was a tearful morning when the school said goodbye to their much loved and respected headmaster. At the beginning of August those who arrived early at school found a rather rumpled track-suited man waiting patiently under the trees for someone to arrive with the key. This was Mr K Milne who was to be our acting headmaster until the end of 1983. He wasn’t quite sure how long it was going to take to drive to Secunda so he had left at 4 o’clock that morning.

Although Mr Milne knew he would not be staying, he threw himself whole-heartedly into the job. His sympathetic manner of dealing with pupils and total commitment to the welfare of the school was much appreciated. He was full of innovative ideas and plans for the future. Ken Milne introduced the concept of leadership courses for the school prefects and since then many constructive hours have been spent on the banks of the Vaal near Parys.

The final highlight of 1983 was a performance by the Soft Shoes. This was a real coup for Highveld Park as this pop group was all the rage at the time.

At the beginning of 1984 Highveld Park welcomed their new principal, Mr Ken Hart. We hoped that his stay would be a long one as we were all beginning to feel rather like the cast in Fugard’s play “Hello and Goodbye”.

Mr Hart brought a wealth of experience with him from Parktown Boys High. Mr Hart took over a fully-fledged school in that we now had matric pupils for the first time. For those of us who had been there from the beginning it was a welcome change and we noticed a definite “adult” feeling about the school. Karen Sands and Michael Mooney were elected the first fully-fledged Head Girl and Head Boy.

In this year the school improved in all areas. Our sports teams particularly benefited though having seniors, and our pupils enjoyed not always being on the losing side. Ms Brenda Lutz, who had joined the staff at the beginning of the year, was appointed Head of the Mathematics Department at the beginning of the third term.

At this time, Mr G Romijn joined the staff as the first deputy headmaster. He successfully organised the first drum majorettes competition in Secunda. Unfortunately, his stay was short lived as he was seconded to start the new English High School in Middelburg and was later appointed as headmaster of Steelcrest High.

A historic meeting took place on 3rd September when officials met with Mr Hart on the site of the new school. Negotiations were entered into with the French, over a bottle of good red wine, for the swimming pool and tennis courts as the school was to be built on the site of the French Village. Mr Collinet agreed and asked that a plaque be put up at the school as a reminder of the French Village. The request was honoured and at the beginning of 1987 Mr de Percina unveiled a plaque in the foyer of the new school building.

For the first time we were invited to provide members for the Secunda Junior Town Council. Sharon Koeslag and Martin Oosthuizen (both Standard 8 pupils) were our first representatives.

An important tradition began in this year. Mrs Olga Peel organised the first South Eastern Transvaal regional presentation of the Young Scientists Expo. Ten pupils from our school were chosen to attend the finals in Pretoria.

When we received our first Matric results, practically every subject was above the provincial average which proved that intellectually Highveld Park can hold its own in this area. Ms MacGregor and an enthusiastic group of Standard 9’s arranged the first matric farewell. On the last day of term a bottle of champagne was popped on the site of the new school and an extremely enthusiastic staff drank a toast to the future.

During 1985 we saw the staff numbers swell to over 30. Mrs van Staden joined the staff as Head of the Afrikaans Department. The first official school tours occurred during the April holidays. Fiona MacGregor was the first girl to be chosen to play for South Eastern Transvaal at the National School Girls’ Hockey Championships and Courtney Nel was the first Cricket player chosen to play for the Eastern Transvaal u/15 Cricket team.

The only 21″ birthday ever held at the school was for Paul Chennell — a very special pupil for whom the school became both mother and father. By the time Paul had completed matric he occupied a vague position somewhere between pupil and staff. The prefects, led by Sharon Koeslag and Tommy Watt were to be the last group of Senior pupils in the Cardboard school.

– Adapted by Ms D le Roux from an original article by Ms MacGregor

About Us

In November 1980. Mr Q.J.J. van Wyk was appointed as acting headmaster of the new English High school. T

Contact Us

highveldparkschool@gmail.com

017 634 1119

1 Trichardt Street
Secunda Mpumalanga

South Africa

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