To be one of the first students to matriculate at a school might not be a big deal to some, but for the old boys of Spes Bona High School in Athlone, a feeling of extreme pride still lingers.
The group, who matriculated in 1968, have now returned with a bang to celebrate the occasion, and with the main aim of giving back to the local school.
Calling themselves the Spes Bona Pioneers, a group established late last year, the old boys now plan to host several fundraisers in aid of the school’s upliftment.
Gavin Benjamin, who is among the first group of students to matriculate at the school, says their first event will kick off this September with a dance at the school.
“We are the first matriculants at this school and call ourselves pioneers. The reason for this is because there were many students who could not afford to matriculate at the time.
“To add, there were only nine students and out of that nine, only five are alive today” he explains.
“We are not only here to celebrate the first group of students to matriculate, but we are also calling on all other pioneers who attended the school at the time and thereafter. We want these pioneers to support us at our fundraising events in aid of the school.”
The idea to start the group comes after Benjamin opened the school’s memory book, also known as the green book. This led him to call up several former learners before establishing the group.
“After phoning about 10 students whom I managed to get hold of, about six came to a gathering. The group just grew from there and we are getting more former learners on board.
“Most of us now stay in the northern area and also attend the same churches or community events.
“We then had a meeting with the school where we advised them to inform us on what their needs are. It is believed they are hiring out the school hall for funds, but the kitchen is not in good shape.
“We plan to get it sorted through one of our fundraising events, and could also possibly raise funds for bursaries, among other things.”
The school opened its doors to the public in 1964 and only accommodated boys at the time, until 1992 when girls could enrol too.
“We don’t only want to call on the old boys, as the school opened its doors to female students too, years after. This event is for all Spes Bona’s pioneers and they are needed to help us uplift the school we once walked into daily,” he adds.
Gerald Johannes, a teacher at the school, says the group’s return is perfect timing with Spes Bona’s matriculants’ 50th anniversary coming up this year.
“I salute these old boys and I am very happy that they have made their way back here to assist our current learners. It is known that the school is always in need of funding and to uplift the learners, and it cannot be done without the help of the public,” explains Johannes.
“Many of the learners come from poor backgrounds and cannot even afford school fees. These learners are influenced by outsiders who deal with drugs and gangsterism when going back to their communities of Kewtown and Bokmakierie, and this is a major issue here.”
Johannes explains the funds are needed in order for the school to embark on several programmes. A suggestion for usage of the funds includes sports and arts programmes.
“We are lacking some activities which are needed at the school. I believe that learners need not only focus on their academic studies, but also on sports and arts programmes, in order to uplift them and inspire them and to take their minds away from their current lives of struggle.”
He urges the public to support the pioneers with their upcoming fundraisers in aid of Spes Bona High School and calls on more former learners to follow in the footsteps of the Spes Bona Pioneers.
Tickets to the dance on 21 September can be purchased from the Spes Bona Pioneers at R150 a ticket. Security on the evening will be provided by Helios Security and Risk Management.
For more information, call Gavin Benjamin on 021 952 4548 or 082 200 6867, Isidore Engelbrecht on 078 379 8564, Ivan Lintnaar on 083 626 2303 or Ronald Campher on 082 670 9968.
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