The Centre for Conservation celebrates Heritage Day with a focus on the 28 Heath Region schools.

This year the Centre for Conservation designed their Heritage celebrations around the twenty eight "Heath" schools. The Heath region covers schools in the Diep River, Plumstead, Southfield, Heathfield and Retreat area. The youngest school is the Cafda School of Skills in Retreat while the oldest school is St. Anne's Primary School in Plumstead.

The term "Heath Schools" was chosen as a tribute to the erica verticillata, commonly known as heath. That is where Heathfield got its name. The erica verticillata, a beautiful plant that belongs to the Fynbos family is now extinct in the wild. The Heathfield and Retreat schools are situated in areas that were once covered with vleis and wetlands where these ericas with their tubular flowers grew prolifically.

Lourier Primary School. Daniel Jansen, a veteran teacher at Lourier, read an extract from Adam Small's poem. Adam Small's father was a former principal at Lourier Primary School.

Sigi Howes, the Head of the Education museum, told a beautiful, poignant story of the eco-political heritage of the schools. The schools on this part of the Cape Flats are linked to the "shame" part of our history. When the Group Areas Act was enforced, schools sprung up on the Cape Flats areas to accommodate all the coloured children who were forced out of schools in areas that were declared "white".

One of the school communities that rebelled against the forced removals was the Wynberg community. Wittebome High School used to be John Graham Primary School. The  community refused to comply with the segregation laws.  In response, the Apartheid government moved John Graham Primary School to Plumstead in 1957, zoned for whites at the time.

The school that my own Dad attended, Diep River Central school, was also a victim of Apartheid.  This was the only primary school with Grade 8, but the school was forced to leave their building in Diep River that was also declared a White area. I remembered this account that my Dad shared with us and when Sigi mentioned this bit of history, I silently acknowledged my hero!

While our heritage has its dark side where both our biodiversity and human rights were violated, our heritage story is slowly following a different path. The Heath Schools, regardless of their age, are helping to shape our new story.

From Left: Sigi Howes, Granville Stander and Annette Fella. The backdrop is the Princess Vlei Forum Exhibition.

"Sigi Howes said, " Schools are major shapers of community and heritage."

Thomas Wildschutt Primary School with its African rainbow learner demographics, is a good example of inclusivity. This school has many Zimbabweans, Congolese, Malawians and Tanzanians learning side by side with their South African counterparts.

Then, in partnership with the City of Cape Town, the Princess Vlei Forum will be presented with fifteen erica verticillata plants. These plants will be re-introduced at the Princess Vlei wetlands area that has been aggressively protected against development.  Flamingoes have started returning to the area as well.

The Honouring Ceremony highlight. Cafda SOS gave the handover speech and  presented the certificate to the oldest school in the Heath group, St Anne's Primary School in Plumstead.

The Honouring Ceremony was a fitting finale. Each school received a certificate for the role they are playing in education. The youngest school, Cafda School of Skills, delivered the Handover speech to St. Anne's Primary School, the oldest school in the Heath group of schools.

These young musicians are learners at Plumstead Prep. The pink school dress is symbolic of the flamingo, waterbirds that used to roam on the Cape Flats.

Kudus to all the schools that were acknowledged at the Centre for Conservation's Heritage celebration. And, an Erica verticillata in full bloom to Sigi and her team for a brilliant heritage programme. Heritage is indeed everybody's business.

As we strive to build our nation, we too, need to recognize that the conservation of our environment is an integral part of our prosperity.


  1. It was indeed a fitting opportunity to celebrate our schools as our heritage . The history of the 'heath ' schools is a poignant story -Ms Howes captured it beautifully.I am excited about Erica verticillata making a comeback as it was one of the species we had plans of rehabilating into the Blouvlei wetlands project.We sadly couldn't renew the lease of the land and our project - which secured us 2 awards,2 years in succession, is currently on hold.

  2. You definitely earn the badge as environmentalist, Vangie. The news about your wetlands project being threatened, is devastating. Approach the Centre for conservation for advice. Thanks for your contributions and a big thanks for being an eco champion.

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  4. That is the power of sharing our oral history! I am sure the Princess Vlei Forum will welcome everybody to be part of the Heath project. Get in touch with them and help to put the heath back in Heathfield. Thanks for your comment that also pays homage to your family. Do pop in again!

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  6. Thanks for capturing a truly fascinating presentation. There is such rich history attached to all these wonderful schools we are privileged to serve. Both my parents grew up in Diep River and then (unashamedly) Heathfield. I would love to be part of the project of restoring the Heath fynbos back to the Princess Vlei area (an area my grandfather worked in in a different but similar capacity). I will endeavour to extend that rich legacy and invite all to seek a similar cause for community enrichment.

  7. Hi Granville. So it was you, the "unknown"! The presentation was indeed a wonderful narrative. And, you are so right. It is indeed our gift to be working alongside schools that unbeknown to us, are linked in more ways than one to us. My dad could very well have been in your parents' class for that matter lol...
    Thanks for your input and thanks for nurturing that spirit of nation-building, always.

    Enjoy the short week in anticipation of the loooong heritage weekend. Blessings.


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