The iconic “Forum”, the school hall at the centre of the Harold Cressy High School building was filled to the brim on Wednesday, as educators, alumni, activists and learners gathered to celebrate the schools status as a provincial heritage site. The school received a heritage plaque on National Heritage Day, another landmark moment in its more than 60 year history.
At the ceremony, current principal Khalied Isaacs spoke of the school’s aim to preserve the memory and legacy of the Cressy community through the unveiling of a “Wall of Honour”. The school hopes that the wall will serve as an example to other schools to embrace their heritage.
“There are many stories that can be told by Harold Cressy and other schools. We want to serve as an example to other schools to embrace their heritage,” says Isaacs.
The Wall of Honour, or more commonly known as the ‘wall of remembrance’, was initiated by former principal Dr Victor Ritchie, as a means to raise funds for the building of a multi-purpose hall for the school. The wall includes honorary plaques of former and current Cressy pupils, affectionately known as ‘Cressyites’.
“When we speak about the heritage and legacy of Harold Cressy we do not only speak about bricks and concrete but the people who attend the school,” said MC Fatima Allie, the spokesperson for the Harold Cressy Alumni Association.
The plaques play a key role in the preservation of the heritage of not only Harold Cressy students but the people of the Western Cape, as it is situated within a national heritage site of District Six. The wall symbolises the struggle for students and educators of colour that will be a reminder for generations to come.
“Places evoke traumas and for the luck of history they might have gone. This wall bridges the gap of the intangible and the memories and gaps they leave mending the absence of material fragments,” said Bonita Bennett, the director of District Six Museum.
The Harold Cressy Alumni Association (HCAA) anticipated 50 participants and contributors towards the plaque project or wall of honour and they received an outstanding 80. The HCAA only managed to produce the first 50 plaques for the unveiling of the wall of honour.
However, the Cressy community were encouraged to purchase a plaque which would deem them as honourable prestigious alumni of the school. Although the wall of honour is in remembrance of Cressyites, their friends and family can purchase plaques on their behalf. The plaques vary in colour and price.
All proceeds raised by the initiative go towards assisting the school to build their multi-purpose hall. Currently R250 000 has been raised by the plaque project and is going towards the construction of the much needed facility.
The multi-purpose hall will be completed in the first quarter of next year.
Although the wall of honour is mainly a funding project, it represents the community and Harold Cressy. The main aim of the plaque is to serve as an example to current pupils through the preservation of the legacy of past pupils.
“The wall of honour is not only a funding project but it shows the strength of the community and the school as an education institution,” said CEO of Heritage Western Cape, Andrew Hall.
Harold Cressy High School students beamed with pride at the event as they lent a hand at the occasion. Many learners VOC News spoke to believe the school’s heritage status was long over due.
“The school is 50 years old so it should be a heritage site,” enthused pupil Qiyaam Jaffer.
The school’s head boy Yameen Motala said the school made a notable contribution to the struggle for freedom and should be recognised.
“The current Cressy generation has seen years of building it up to what it is today and the contributions the school is currently making towards this country. The school is constantly faced with challenges that it has to adapt to which is different from other schools,” said
“I feel excited about this as Harold Cressy has a proud history carried along as the founder developed over time. Now it’s a heritage site,” added deputy head boy Yusuf Salie.
The school is named after Harold Cressy born on 1 February 1889. Cressy was an educationist and civil rights activist during the apartheid era. While he was not focussed on political activism and protest, he strived to improve the education of people of colour in South Africa. In 1912 Cressy was appointed principal of the Trafalgar Second Class Public School, which had been established in 1910.
“I think Harold Cressy is one of the best schools. I know Harold Cressy was a hardworking and determined man and I try to always live up to our founder’s standards,” said pupil Raeesah Du Toit. VOC (Nailah Cornelissen)