This week we focus on our Heritage and normally I would be sharing the celebrations and sombre memorials taking place. 2020 and 2021 have changed things radically for us in the midst of a Global Pandemic. While we are attempting to put on brave faces and be present for our boys every day this is done with a fair amount of anxiety and fear of contracting the COVID 19 virus.
For me today though is an opportunity to reflect on other social and political events that Wynberg has ridden out in our 180 year long History
1841 – The Wynberg Free School was established as a multi-racial, co-ed school for all the children of the area. By then, the colonial interests of the British Empire had taken hold in South Africa, and it’s easy to forget that gold and diamonds had yet to be discovered when our school began so humbly in the little village of Wynberg.
As history tells us, economics and vested interests can result in conflict, and by the end of the 1800s colonial SA was in the grip of two Boer Wars – brothers vs brothers. One of the first casualties was a young Wynberg Old Boy, on the side of the Boers.
When peace was eventually restored, and the Act of Union declared in 1910 our school was already almost 70 years old, but had long-ceased to be multi-racial and co-educational.
Within 4 short years of Union, South Africa was again caught in the grip of colonial conflict, this time on a global scale as volunteers across the British Empire were drafted into the ‘’war to end all wars”.
Wynberg men were not spared, and in the Great War, WWI – 43 old boys died, mostly in the infamous battle of Delville Wood in France.
In 1918 the Spanish Flu devastated South Africa and 50 000 000 people died globally.
The Great Depression from 1929 impacted the Wynberg schools as well. Old photos, and written records, show that even school uniforms were not compulsory in the economic hardship of the time.
The next great global tragedy was WWII from 1939 to 45 – the names of both wars’ Wynberg dead are read out at WBHS Founders’ Day every year by their Head Prefect. It is an extensive, and eternally sad list.
In 1956 – 57 the polio epidemic stopped much of our inter-schools sport, and old school magazines touch gently on the death of at least one of our own students.
South Africa then endured the horrors of apartheid & Christian National Education, and then the Border conflicts.
Recently we have included in our Heritage remembrances Our Wynberg Generations: those of our communities we serve who were political prisoners and those who died in our struggle for a democratic South Africa
The current generation’s memory of Wynberg will be marked by COVID 19 and how it impacted what they would have considered a normal school experience.
Today we want to remember all those in our community who have been impacted by this pandemic.
We light a candle in recognition of:
- All our families who have lost loved ones, particularly parents and siblings
- All those whose life circumstances have changed due to loss of employment and the impact of this
- All those who are front line workers and have worked tirelessly in the fight against the COVID 19 virus
- All those who have worked to put measures in place so that schooling can continue
We light this candle as a symbol of hope for the way forward.
Today we realise what resilience truly is and recognise the resilience of the previous generations of Wynberg who adapted to the needs of the time to ensure that we are able to call ourselves Wynberg Boys’ Junior today. We require to truly live by our Supera Moras motto to overcome one of the defining challenges in our History.
Mr Cedric Poleman