Vi­sion of Zon­nebloem as a cen­tre for sport

Es­tate could be­come hub of in­te­gra­tion

Cape Argus - - METRO - NA­DIA KAMIES Na­dia Kamies is a creative writer and is com­plet­ing a PhD in his­tor­i­cal and her­itage stud­ies at the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria.

I DRIVE past the waste­land of what used to be Dis­trict Six on a reg­u­lar ba­sis and the few houses, places of wor­ship and the CPUT build­ings em­pha­sise the stark­ness, high­light­ing what is no longer there.

But re­cently, that empti­ness struck me anew. Per­haps it was the view­point I had from the school which I had at­tended so many years ago. As I stood in the car park in front of the chapel on Zon­nebloem Es­tate, look­ing down the hill to­wards the ocean, I was over­come by a sense of loss.

Through the gap above the wall where there used to be a gate, was only an open field. I re­mem­bered the rows of houses that had stood there, the women who had made tof­fee ap­ples, koek­sis­ters and tameletjie­s and the chil­dren who ran to buy these of­fer­ings through the fence, at break time.

Walk­ing around the school gave me a cu­ri­ous sense of déjà vu, of hav­ing lived in this space which is not quite the same.

The build­ings stand where they have stood for decades, but are run­down and in des­per­ate need of TLC, the cob­bled stones in the av­enue we walked up to the chapel, have been cov­ered with tar and the school seemed smaller than I re­mem­bered.

Mem­o­ries came creep­ing back like the cob­bles emerg­ing from un­der the tar in places, re­fus­ing to be for­got­ten. Assem­blies on the tar­mac, Wednes­day morn­ing chapel, go­ing home with smudges of ash on our fore­heads on Ash Wednes­day, uni­form in­spec­tions and sit­ting at our desks eat­ing our lunch be­fore we could go out to play, be­cause “young ladies did not eat out­side” and walk­ing to the new Art Cen­tre, where Mr Ho­p­ley taught.

I think of Zon­nebloem as the “fam­ily school” – an aunt taught at the boys’ school, my brothers and cousins at­tended the school and var­i­ous fam­ily mem­bers, my fa­ther in­cluded, trained at the teach­ers col­lege which is now the high school.

Zon­nebloem was started in 1858 by Bishop Gray, who had started Bish­ops and St Cyprian’s, both for “white” chil­dren, while Zon­nebloem ini­tially tar­geted the sons of African chiefs, “to re­move them from hea­then and bar­barous in­flu­ences and ex­pose them to the full force of civil­i­sa­tion”.

Later girls were brought to the Cape to study so that the boys would have Chris­tian wives rather than “hea­then girls”. In the early 1920s, the school con­cen­trated on the train­ing of “coloured” teach­ers, to pro­mote de­cency and re­spectabil­ity as the path to civil­i­sa­tion.

Zon­nebloem was one of the good “coloured” schools, rel­a­tively speak­ing. When I re­cently in­ter­viewed a past teacher, she re­called with fond­ness the ethos of the school, the ded­i­ca­tion of her col­leagues. She said that the teach­ers did the best they could to in­stil pride and a pos­i­tive sense of be­long­ing.

With ded­i­cated teach­ers, lim­ited re­sources, but a de­ter­mi­na­tion to ed­u­cate chil­dren the apartheid gov­ern­ment deemed less than oth­ers, Zon­nebloem pro­duced fine grad­u­ates, who re­turned to teach or to give back to the com­mu­nity in other ways.

One of these was Jeremiah Moshoeshoe, the son of King Moshoeshoe, who stud­ied there in 1859 and showed such prom­ise that he was sent to study fur­ther at St Au­gus­tine Mis­sion­ary Col­lege in Can­ter­bury.

An­other was Harold Cressy who came to Zon­nebloem in 1897 from Natal when he was 8 years old. He grad­u­ated in 1905 as a teacher at the age of 16 and com­pleted ma­tric through study­ing on his own.

Re­jected by Rhodes Univer­sity be­cause of the colour of his skin, he was even­tu­ally ac­cepted by the Univer­sity of Cape Town, where he be­came the first “coloured” per­son to at­tain a bach­e­lor’s de­gree. Cressy left a sig­nif­i­cant mark on ed­u­ca­tion, so much so that the Harold Cressy High School was named af­ter him in 1953.

Bish­ops and St Cyprian’s con­tinue to flour­ish as among the top pri­vate (mainly white) schools in the prov­ince and coun­try, while Zon­nebloem’s build­ings and fa­cil­i­ties slowly, but steadily, de­cline – an in­dict­ment per­haps on our post-apartheid so­ci­ety in which lit­tle has changed eco­nom­i­cally, and the most vul­ner­a­ble con­tinue to suf­fer.

Iron­i­cally, Zon­nebloem, be­cause of its prime lo­ca­tion, has been des­ig­nated a Quin­tile 5 school, which serves the wealth­i­est com­mu­ni­ties and there­fore re­ceives the least gov­ern­ment fund­ing. It is a state school on pri­vate prop­erty in build­ings leased from the Angli­can church.

The pupils, how­ever, are from the most so­cio-eco­nom­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties and are largely Xhosa-speak­ing. Chil­dren come on buses and taxis rather than walk­ing like I did with my two brothers.

I had not been back to the school since I left in the mid-1970s, but was in­vited to the Sun­flower fes­ti­val, held at the school ear­lier this year, by Zephne Lad­brook of the Otto Foun­da­tion.

Lad­brook and her foun­da­tion have over the past two years in­jected pock­ets of hope into these po­ten­tially dreary sur­round­ings – open­ing a li­brary that dou­bles as an af­ter­care space, ren­o­vat­ing two class­rooms and erect­ing a pre­fab build­ing for two more and en­gag­ing in var­i­ous other projects to im­prove the ex­pe­ri­ence of learn­ers at the school.

She dreams of sports fields which would serve not only the schools on the Zon­nebloem Es­tate, but those in the sur­round­ing area, none of which have ac­cess to sport fa­cil­i­ties.

The school is ad­ja­cent to land which would be ideal for this pur­pose, but for a num­ber of bu­reau­cratic rea­sons is un­avail­able for de­vel­op­ment as such. I find it in­con­ceiv­able that we still have to mo­ti­vate for sports to be part of an in­clu­sive pro­gramme to de­velop chil­dren and youth.

Apart from the ob­vi­ous health and fit­ness ben­e­fits, par­tic­i­pa­tion in sport has been proven to en­hance aca­demic and psy­choso­cial de­vel­op­ment.

Chil­dren learn so much more than how to play the game when they par­tic­i­pate in sport – per­se­ver­ance, pa­tience, team­work and build­ing self-es­teem are just some of the things that en­hance de­vel­op­ment into healthy, well-rounded and ma­ture adults. Sport can also play a ma­jor role in re­duc­ing crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity and sub­stance abuse.

I would ar­gue that sport should be on an equal foot­ing with lan­guage, maths and science in de­vel­op­ing our chil­dren. Above all that, par­tic­i­pat­ing in sport pro­vides op­por­tu­nity to in­te­grate within, and with other com­mu­ni­ties, and here is where I see the over­whelm­ing ben­e­fits of pro­mot­ing sport at Zon­nebloem that in­cludes the sur­round­ing schools. Lad­brook has swept me up in her vi­sion of com­mu­ni­ties com­ing to­gether to play on the Zon­nebloem fields.

Dis­trict Six has be­come sym­bolic of the forced re­movals and de­struc­tion of com­mu­ni­ties that oc­curred dur­ing apartheid.

How won­der­fully ap­pro­pri­ate, then, it would be if the es­tate were to be­come a hub of in­te­gra­tion in the area, at once ad­dress­ing the wrongs of the past, cel­e­brat­ing the legacy of the Zon­nebloem alumni and shap­ing a gen­er­a­tion of well-rounded in­di­vid­u­als for a demo­cratic South Africa.

Per­haps this in­te­gra­tion and re­dress will even in­clude St Cyprian’s in the City Bowl and Bish­ops in the south­ern sub­urbs, draw­ing in­creas­ingly larger cir­cles of in­clu­sion and hope.

Po­ten­tial projects which the Otto Foun­da­tion is hop­ing to com­plete are:

A new cricket field in part­ner­ship with WP Cricket.

A feed­ing scheme/veg­etable gar­den in part­ner­ship with La­dles of Love and Rise Against Hunger.

Fix­ing up bath­rooms and pro­vid­ing “dig­nity packs” for girls in or­der to re­store dig­nity.

Wa­ter stor­age and main­te­nance in part­ner­ship with the SOS NGO and an up­grade of se­cu­rity.

Es­tab­lish­ment of cul­tural ex­tra­mu­rals, such as a choir.

The Otto Foun­da­tion would value sup­port from lo­cal busi­nesses and alumni, and may be con­tacted via the fol­low­ing email ad­dresses: zephne@chrisot­to­foun­da­tion.com or karen@chrisot­to­foun­da­tion.com

ZON­NEBLOEM School was started in 1858 by Bishop Gray, who had started Bish­ops and St Cyprian’s, both for “white” chil­dren, while Zon­nebloem ini­tially tar­geted the sons of African chiefs, “to re­move them from hea­then and bar­barous in­flu­ences and ex­pose them to the full force of civil­i­sa­tion”.

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