The History of Aloe Ridge Primary School
It was always believed that the school had started in 1907, but, in the 1990's a most interesting find was made by one of the secretaries at the school – an old admission register, dating back to March 1903 was unearthed. This dusty old document proved that the school's history started a few months after the end of the Boer War.
Hartzenbergfontein School, as it was named, like so many others in post Boer War Transvaal was part of an attempt by Lord Milner to restore education in our war-torn land. The first four children enrolled in the school came from the Fensham family, but most of the pupils were from Dutch descent. In the old Edwardian register, it is recorded that nearly all the parents whose children attended the school, seemed to be involved in one of two occupations – either farmer or miner.
In Lord Milner's endeavour to Anglicise the country, English was the medium of instruction in the school until 1907. From this date pupils were taught in Dutch and Afrikaans until the 1950's when the school became dual medium. The school started in an old army tent, not far from its present position. Within a short space of time, however, the tent gave way to a corrugated iron structure which was erected on the present site.
Ironically one of the first headmasters wrote in the logbook, "English is all round not spoken which makes the teaching of it unpractable".
At first the pupils studied under a tree and later in tents and old farm buildings. Later a schoolroom, with teacher's quarters at the back, was built. By 1916 there were 54 pupils at the school and on the inventory appeared the names of three donkeys, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. These animals were provided by the Education Department to be used by the children who lived a long way from school.
In 1917 the school closed for the birthday of King George V, who had ruled great Britain for six years. Although the holiday was enjoyed by the two teachers Messrs van der Merwe and Badenhorst and the 74 pupils, it was also a time of war. The principal wrote in the log book, "Vedag is ons weer an't werk. Die twee vakansie dae' het ons angenaam geniet. Moge die vrede 'n "Sweet everlasting" wees!" It was wishful thinking that peace would last for ever, but the school closed for another holiday on 5th August 1919 when hostilities ended marking the end of World War 1. In the same year, 1919, the new brick buildings consisting of two classrooms, storeroom and a principals office were officially opened.
Hartzenbergfontein School, as it was then called, served the Walkerville community only. Some pupils walked from local farms whilst others made use of donkeys and bicycles supplied by the Education Department. Weather determined attendance to a large extent. Principal van der Merwe's entries in the log-book "28-1-1919 no school, rain and small, wet attendance" and "31-1-1919 attendance of the week weak. Oh – this is a rainy place for lazy teachers!!" reflected his bemused (and witty) frustration on the matter. Often in summer the small drift about ¾ km south of the school flooded and this too stopped the children from attending classes. The works department in Heidelberg endeavoured to overcome the problem by sending three large pipes and a few bags of cement to the school. The log-book reported: "Die pype lê daar en die sement is al lang versteend." The parents had been asked to assist by installing the pipes in the streambed, but had not done so.
Water supply had always been a problem for the school. When they opened their doors in 1903 a shallow borehole topped by a windmill provided sufficient drinking water for many years. When the brick buildings were erected, gutters allowed rain to drain into a water tank at the corner of the building. The water supply was never good and over the years many holes were drilled. Mr. Scheepers, the school principal since 1953 was to address the problem. In 1959 one of the parents, Mr. Collinet, agreed to allow the school to drill a hole on his farm, on the north side of the school grounds, only 800 metres from the school. A staggering 11,800 litres per hour ensured an end to the school's water shortage and Mr. Scheeper's efforts ended in success. Thirty three years later, in May 1992, a pipeline was laid linking the school to the Rand Water Board supply.
It is interesting to note in the early log books of the school, that subjects taught in 1916 –1919 differ a great deal from those offered in schools today. In an inspection report in 1917, the Inspector noted that History, Geography and nature study has been "crowded out by English, Dutch and Arithmetic". On taking over the school in 1917, the new principal , Mr. Van der Merwe wrote "Drilling and singing are the two optional subjects. Songs were practised but time, tone and tune were not". Good results were difficult to obtain due to the fact that 61 pupils were crowded into two classrooms. Most of the pupils sat on low benches and had no writing desks. For a measure of success to be achieved many lessons had to be conducted outside. Stock was often in short supply, as can be seen from the following log-book entries: "Schrÿf boeke vedag aangekomen – nog geen pennen." And " Schrÿf boeke is nie die regte en besten. Verder mekeer nog 'n ele boel aangevrae boeke"
One of the most impressive celebrations in the schools history was held on 7th December 1938. The school was selected as one of the sites where the ox-wagons 'Johanna van der Merwe' and 'Magrieta Prinsloo' were to stop during the centenary trek from Cape Town to Pretoria. The programme started at 05h30 with the hitching of the wagons. En route to the school a short ceremony was held for the unveiling of a monument to the fallen burgher, Willem Kamffer. Escorted by mounted commandos, the wagons arrived at the school at 09h45, one of them was driven over a wet slab of cement in the school grounds to leave imprints of the wagon tracks and hoof prints. A stone monument was built over the spot and brass plaque bearing the motto "Rotsvas" put in place. Some traces of these celebrations still remain today. A few of the trees that were planted on that day still grow on the junior playground, an entry remains in an old logbook and a faded programme rests in the official school album. Two daily reminders of those celebrations also remain. The statement "Rotsvas" is embodied in the school motto "Stabilitas" and the monument built that day still stands in the school grounds.
The school's earlier log books only mention 'sport' when it came to the activities of the children. So we can only assume the children enjoyed games like Bok-bok, kennetjie, running races and tug of war. Only in the 1950's was money allocated for the clearing and levelling of grounds for a rugby field and athletic track. Place was also made for a tennis court. By 1959 the tennis courts got their hard surface – crushed ant-heaps! In 1952 a bus service was started and the numbers began to grow rapidly. The school became a parallel medium school in 1953. This meant that both English and Afrikaans pupils attended the school and were taught in their own home language, but on the playgrounds and sports-fields everyone played together. (Rugby was played in Afrikaans and cricket in English!) In 1960 the parents held a 'tickey' evening to raise funds for the improvement of the athletics track. The princely sum of £63 was raised.
In 1962 the school became an English medium school. The Afrikaans pupils were moved to neighbouring schools at De Deur, Grasmere, and Eikenhof. A competition was held to select a new name and "Aloe Ridge" was chosen. It was only in 1970 that the all weather surfaces were laid for the tennis courts.
On the 17th August 1991, the then Director of Education, Mr. RJ Brown officially opened the school's new Science and Art Centre.
2003 - The Centenary Year
The school's new flag was unveiled at the first assembly for the year. Each child received a special gift to commemorate the school's birthday and a few grade 1's were called up to blow out the candles on the birthday cake - boy were they disappointed when they found out they were not going to get a slice of it!
On the 19th of March the biggest birthday party that Walkerville has ever seen was held on the sports field. 540 pupils arrived to find the grounds a hive of activity. A foofi slide had been erected, there were 'gladiator' activities and for the juniors there were swings, jumping castles and even a water slide. Although it was supposed to a co-ordinated affair by lunch time it was total free for all, even the teachers participated! They got down and dirty on the foofi slide and bucking bronco with the children cheering them on madly. There were a couple of rather undignified landings - the photos of which we are quite sure will never make it into the school magazine. A lot of tired but happy little bodies left the schoolgrounds with the prerequisite party pack and birthday cake.
In years to come they will always carry with them the memory of this very special party. Other functions planned for the year include Fun Day with a Market on 10th May, a stage production in September, and a reunion for ex-pupils.
A radio station in Cape Town announced Aloe Ridge's 100th birthday at the beginning of the year, and the school has received numerous calls and congratulations from ex-pupils now living all over the country.
The School's mission is to provide the best, balanced education for children, in a supportive environment, and to equip them to make a positive contribution to our community and country. We feel that Aloe Ridge has more than lived up to this statement. The staff of dedicated teachers has always gone the extra mile. Congratulations on your birthday Aloe Ridge, may we wish you many more.
Thousands of children from Walkerville and surrounding areas have received an education at Aloe Ridge Primary School.
The school originated in 1907 when Afrikaans farmers in the district persuaded the Transvaal Government to establish Hartzenbergfontein school in the Heidelberg Schoolboard area. One of the farmers, Commandant Kamffer donated the land on which the school still stands today.
In the gardens and playing fields of the school are many reminders of its eventful and interesting history. There is the Centenary monument built in 1938, the fishpond to commemorate the Republic celebrations in 1961 as well as the sun dial which was erected when the school was 50 years old. Most of the trees were planted at tree-planting ceremonies at different times by pupils, parents and friends of the school. All the bluegums were planted by Mr. Nel, a previous headmaster, who was at the school for 32 years.
Today, Aloe Ridge School, though still situated in delightfully pastoral surroundings, is an educational centre of high repute. Approximately 480 children are at present receiving their education here under the guidance of Mrs Sheila Tovell and her staff of dedicated teachers. We are all justly proud of our Aloe Ridge.
Visit the official Aloe Ridge website at: www.aloeridge.org.za