Adventures at Carter High with greatest school leadership duo ever
AS school resumes, I wish to acknowledge what I consider the best principal and viceprincipal team I have witnessed, in Mr Delport and Mr van Heerden, because schools need leaders like them. They were at Carter High School when I arrived in 1994, and their work during that transition phase in our nation deserves recognition.
I was in awe, and am still amazed, at how seriously education and life in general were taken at the school. It was not quite military, but Carter High was definitely like a small nation with traditions, a school anthem and a full sports and cultural calendar, among other features. We had assembly in the hall twice a week and when there was no assembly there would be intercom announcements in every classroom before and after daily lessons.
Every first day of school involved a hair inspection, choosing a mandatory extramural activity, which you could only be excused from by a letter from your parents, and other administrative stuff. Without fail, teaching began on the very first day and we even had home work. This was all run by a team led by these two men, whose characteristics I believe I adopted in my leadership roles. They knew that they were raising responsible members of society.
The first time I saw Mr Delport was on the evening before school resumed, which involved an introductory meeting with parents, Grade 8 pupils and the prefects for the year. He looked and sounded nothing like the principals I was used to, having been to four primary schools. Mr D was lowly, humble and gentle, and appeared nervous as he read his speech and spoke to parents and pupils. This was very new to me, but I didn’t dwell on it as the evening progressed. Too much was going on to focus that evening, but a tour exposed the most amazing institution I had seen. Carter had many excellent facilities, such as science laboratories, sports fields, basketball courts, tennis courts, manicured lawns, a pool and so many other amenities that made me look forward to going to school throughout high school.
Mr Van did not make a lot of friends but he was the backbone of the school and would be a classic example of the Zulu agriculturerelated phrase Kushaywa edonsayo, which means, “The ox that pulls is the one that gets whipped”. In urging discipline and cleanliness, he made mistakes at times and would apologise. That man loved our school, and as indicated by our recent and blessed encounter at Mediclinic Hospital, still does. He is still as fit as a fiddle and would have been there to see somebody else, but he kindled this tribute article. We would make fun of him for a reason his friend, education academic Wayne Hugo, did not let me elaborate upon during a lecture when I mentioned him.
Mr van Heerden would walk across the school premises at lunch time and even pick up pieces of litter as he made sure everything on the premises was sound. He also took the fire and emergency drills very seriously, so we would joke that if the school ever blew up, he would make sure we were all safe, and finally emerge from the disaster by himself, full of soot and dust in ripped clothing, just like movie heroes. That school was his baby.
Mr Delport was more approachable and sociable, and I remember him getting really angry with us at most, three times a year, if we did not take his humble requests and reprimands seriously. I am probably exaggerating, but during the few times he raised his voice to scold us in the assembly hall it looked as if the teachers were also afraid. However, there is one incident where Mr D was expected to scream at us but surprisingly did not. A teacher who had been on leave was returning and her temporary Asian replacement was thanked by Mr D as he announced that she was leaving.
Sections of the seated pupil body hissed “yes” and he surprisingly continued. He asked us to remain behind as he and the staff exited the hall. He returned and calmly and respectfully said he had never been so embarrassed. He urged respect for other cultures and said that he had apologised to her.
I can only imagine the head and deputy’s private discussions on mitigating cultural stresses and clashes because of the rather new circumstances then. You see, apartheid also inconvenienced wellmeaning white South Africans by not giving them much truthful, concrete information on the way black people do things. In remembering my years at Carter, I have grown to appreciate the enormity and difficulty of integrating nonwhite children into a former white school at the dead end of apartheid. I hope they know it was worth all the stress. Many thanks!
Mr van Heerden would walk across the school premises at lunch time and even pick up pieces of litter as he made sure everything on the premises was sound. He also took the fire and emergency drills very seriously, so we would joke that if the school ever blew up he would make sure we were all safe and finally emerge from the disaster by himself, full of soot and dust in ripped clothing, just like movie heroes. That school was his baby.