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School marks 180th

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Among the guests who attended the Thanksgiving Service in celebration of Somerset West Methodist Primary School’s 180th anniversary, were keynote speaker Les Adonis (long-time Somerset West resident and Church Street Methodist church representative) and his wife, June, Rev Andrew Hefkie (ex-bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa), Wilbur Hindley (former principal) and Trevor de Waal (acting principal). Photos: Donovan Poole
Among the guests who attended the Thanksgiving Service in celebration of Somerset West Methodist Primary School’s 180th anniversary, were keynote speaker Les Adonis (long-time Somerset West resident and Church Street Methodist church representative) and his wife, June, Rev Andrew Hefkie (ex-bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa), Wilbur Hindley (former principal) and Trevor de Waal (acting principal). Photos: Donovan Poole

One of the Helderberg’s oldest schools, Somerset West Methodist Primary School, celebrates its 180th anniversary this year.

The milestone was marked with a Thanksgiving Service held on Tuesday 26 April to commemorate the century-old primary school which boasts a proud history.

The founding of Somerset West Methodist Primary School was closely linked to the Methodist missionary effort in Somerset West.

Rev Barnabas Shaw, a pioneering Wesleyan Methodist missionary, arrived in Cape Town from Yorkshire, England, in 1816. Apart from his work in Namaqualand, he travelled extensively in the Helderberg to spread the gospel and championed the cause of the poor and oppressed.

Following the passing of the Emancipation of Slavery Act in Britain in 1833, Shaw realised slaves would be freed into penury, as their masters were unwilling to pay their wages. He bought 14 erven in Somerset West, where he established the Wesleyan Methodist Mission and provided allotments for freed slaves to build houses on. These erven constitute the church in Lourens and Victoria street, and these still belong to the Methodist church.

The Day School was established for teaching English writing, reading and arithmetic. Although the work of missionaries began much earlier, the school is believed to have been formally founded in 1842, which was seen on the wall of the school building.

With the opening of the new chapel in 1861, the old chapel was used as a day school. The pupil numbers grew as the congregation numbers increased. The mission school was led by James Gray and later Johan D Schafer and Francis C Schafer, who served until 1936. He was succeeded as principal by WD Rhoda (1937–1965), AW Sissing (1965–1976), PG Gordon (1977–1982), HS Patience (1982–1987), I Bagus (1988–1994), S Leibrandt (1995–2005) and Wilbur Hindley (2005-March 2022).

“We are ecstatic to be celebrating our 180th birthday, and are especially proud of all of our learners who surmounted all obstacles and challenges at Somerset West Methodist Primary to attain ultimate career success. The school has become a source of pride for many in our community, and we will work hard to maintain that belief,” said acting principal Trevor de Waal.

De Waal’s calling as educator started at the school in 1993. Motivated by everything the educational institution stands for including its rich history and culture, the passionate teacher was appointed Deputy Principal in September 2016 and loyally served under Hindley’s leadership alongside a team of supportive, dedicated teachers, who contributed to their management success and governance structures.

“The school has always taken a comprehensive approach to education, emphasising the importance of both academics and sports culture,” he said. “We cater for learners from different cultural and social backgrounds which is challenging but also an advantage to building a multicultural society.

“In the face of adversity and challenges, we were able to provide the finest possible education to our learners from the surrounding areas. We made do with what we had because education was at the forefront of our daily activities.”

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