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Former learners from Muir Street Muslim primary reunite and vow to reclaim land

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After close to 50 years, learners of the Muir Street Muslim Primary School, which was demolished in District Six due to the brutality of the apartheid Group Areas Act have reunited to reclaim their land.
The Muir Street Moslem primary school was funded in 1929 by the Indian Islamic relief fund which saw the urgent need for an Indian school in District Six, after many residents emigrated with their families from India. At that time, there was only one Muslim school in the area Rahmaniyah primary, which provided Islamic education and the department of education’s curriculum was over crowded.

The Rander MiaBhai Benefit Society bought the properties which consisted of three houses, for £700 total in 1920. The properties were situatedd in Pontac, Aspeling and Lesar Streets in District Six.

Former teacher and the only male surviving educator Mr Fuad Majiet, explained that in the year 1920 the chairperson of the society, Mohamed Halim, submitted an application for an Indian Muslim school in Muir Street. The application was approved, and a few days later, the chairperson received the following correspondence, from the department of education.

“It would be in my opinion, be a mistake to recognise this school as an Indian school. We have no need of introducing further racial elements into the schooling system. It is recommended that the official name of the school be Cape Town Muir Street (Moslem) Coloured School,” said the department of education inspector H.Z Van der Merwe.

Mr Majiet addressed the audience at the reunion

At the reunion, the Mountain Road Primary School halls was decorated in yellow and white décor and the accompanying refreshments menu resembled that of a traditional Muslim wedding. Former classmates, friends, educators and neighbours embraced each other and were overjoyed to see their now adult peers.

Many reminisced fondly about the time at the school and living in the area, while some expressed sadness and condolences for their peers who have passed on. The hall was filled with gratitude that the school’s education was the foundation to the success of many learners’ careers and personal development.

Prominent Cape Town businessman Yusuf Mohammed, affectionately known as ‘Joe Hilite’, accepted an award on behalf of his decreased wife Mrs Zora Noor. Mohammed said that ‘juffrou Noor’, as the learners would call her, taught at Muir Street for 12 years. She lived in Strand and traveled every day via train to District Six. He stressed how important punctuality was to her.

“I met my wife at Muir Street primary school. I was told by friends of a teacher who did all Muir Streets teachers written work. I then asked her to rewrite my work, as I was teaching at St Luke’s in Salt River. Her colleagues Mr and Mrs Banoo had introduced Juffrou Noor to me. I was a young teacher from Johannesburg; she was the most beautiful teacher at the school,” said Mohammed.

Many learners had recalled the funny and memorable moments from their attendance at Muir street. A member of the Muir Street Muslim school reunion, Rasheed Martin, explained how teachers would play the role of parents at school and how every learner was treated as an individual.

“Muir Street was the place where you learned your madrassa. There was a bucket and a scoop where you would take your wudu which was called abdas. The school formed your Islamic identity. Social status was not an issue and we were not bothered from which side of Hanovver street you came from,” said Martin.

When the school was closed down and the learners when to schools all over the Cape Flats, the good foundation they received from Muir Street remained with them.

“At school Allah’s law came first, then the parent and then the teacher. Today a teacher is assaulted in class by leaners, and the child’s parent will defend the child even if he is wrong,” said Martin.

He further said he wished schools today still maintained that strong family and community bonds which schools and the broader community in District Six possessed. VOC

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