Harold Cressy High School is to be declared a provincial heritage site on Wednesday, another landmark moment in its more than 60 year history. The school will receive a heritage plaque on National Heritage Day on September 24th, in a special event at the school. The heritage status pays homage to the schools dedicated role in serving the District Six community since its establishment in January 1951.
Harold Cressy High is widely recognized for the role it played in anti-apartheid activism, particularly during the forced removals in District Six during the 1960’s. The school also famously abandoned its normal curriculum in 1985, in favor of lessons centered on the political struggle against Apartheid rule.
Heritage Western Cape CEO, Andrew Hall, said the recognition came as a result of the major role played by the school in the District Six community, especially in its resistance to Apartheid. He noted that all heritage sites needed to be relevant to either the identity of the community it served, or the province as a whole.
“It’s about a site that contributes to something community identity and the understanding of heritage that shows the community its roots, and helps people understand where they came from,” he said.
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.
Harold Cressy is one of four locations that will be declared Provincial Heritage Sites by Heritage Western Cape (HWC) this month. The others are St. Georges Cathedral, the Diepkloof Rock Shelter, and Verlorenvlei Cultural Landscape.
The selection of each year’s heritage sites is based on nominations the HWC receives from the community. Sites can be nominated by anyone who feels that the landmark is worthy of recognition, or deserves to be protected and conserved for future generations. Hall noted that in the case of Harold Cressy, the nomination came from the school’s respective alumni association.
Because of the schools new status, he said there was expectation that it be appropriately maintained. Furthermore, any planned development or construction on the site would now require permission from the HWC.
“There is a fairly strict permitting system in order to ensure that the site is maintained in the appropriate fashion,” he said.
Hall insisted the school would remain in service to the community despite its new status, saying the whole idea behind heritage conservation was that it remained relevant to the communities.
“I think there is a really old fashion idea that many people have, that we kind of flash freeze things when we declare them, and they are set up as some sort of iconic site or museum. That is not really practical at all. Places must remain relevant and useful to their communities,” he said.
The Heritage Day event kicks off at 2pm at the school. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)