Camps Bay schools celebrated 110 years of education in the community last week with a series of events, while the principals of the three schools – Camps Bay Preparatory, Camps Bay Primary and Camps Bay High – took time to reflect on the milestone.
While there have been many positive changes at Camps Bay High School: the new drama centre, the water polo pool, among them, principal David de Korte is most proud of the things that have stayed the same.
“If a pupil who was comes back to the school 20 years later will see that the ethos of the school is the same. That is something special. The schools have all maintained a very engaging and caring ethos,” he says, adding that the children are always pleased to see their teachers and friends in the morning and that’s something that warms his heart.
It’s this ethos, he says, that also set the school apart at a critical time in South Africa’s history.
“The high school in the early 1990s had a very progressive governing body. They were liberal and were pushing for the school to be open to all. In 1990, they allowed schools to open to all races, if the schools paid a penalty and took a financial cut from the Department of Education.”
The high school chose to open its doors to all races before the end of apartheid.
“That momentum,” he says, “has carried through to today, and it is a normal South African society and how a school should be. Diversity is everything. You can be a judo champion, scout or do modern dancing, and we will recognise that and give you an honours blazer… The message I’m always trying to send out is that we are still the same kind of school that cares for children and provides quality education.”
Stuart Collier, principal of the primary school, moved there from the high school. “They were really happy days. I always think it is a happy school, and the children just love coming to school. It’s a wonderful place to teach and it is very special. One of the mottos of the schools is ‘As one we grow,’ and this can be seen in the relationship between the schools.”
Mr Collier adds: “What is nice as well is that in the last few years the three schools have been working very closely together.”
He says lifelong friendships are formed among the pupils who go through their whole schooling career together.
“It is an exceptionally strong cultural school, and we have lots of talented children. We are very fortunate that there is a lot of diversity, and it is an example of a true South Africa. You don’t have to be a rugby player to be supported. It’s very rewarding to see past students coming back”
Linda Murray, principal of the Camps Bay Preparatory School, says it was the prep school that started it all, having opened its doors in 1906.
“We start the nurturing of the children there.
“A lot of our families call the school a home from home, and that’s what it is.”
She says there is a caring environment where they maintain the respect between the teachers and the pupils.
“We have amazing people out there who have come through our schools and achieved the most amazing things.”
Camps Bay High Old Boy David Perel, 30, spoke at a special assembly at the school telling pupils never to give up on their dreams. He recently signed a three-year contract to be a professional racing driver in Europe.
“It’s a huge honour to be here and I really enjoyed my time at Camps Bay High School,” he said, describing how he made the transition from sitting behind a desk in his early twenties to sitting behind the wheel of a racing car last year at the age of 29.
“I worked 20-hour days non-stop but I always wondered what it would be like to be racing driver instead of going to my desk at work…. I thought how much it would cost to do one GT race overseas?”
He started calling all the teams that he knew were racing. “All of them said no, and that I probably wouldn’t be able to afford it. I had a list of about 60 teams and it was team number 59 that invited me to come to a one off race in Italy.”
He performed well in the race and two weeks later, Lamborghini phone him and wanted him to race in the GT world championships in Malaysia, where he led the race until his brakes failed.
“I hit the wall at 200km/* . The team thought it was my fault, because when you looked at the data it showed I didn’t brake. Luckily, I had a GoPro in the car, and I was pumping that brake as hard as I could.”
He thought his dream of becoming a professional driver, after spending his life savings, was over until the team watched footage from the GoPro a few months later.
“In February last year, I got a call from the same team to race for the year… The whole way through, deciding to do things myself made me a better racing driver. More committed and more determined than my competitors,” he said.
He has now signed a three-year racing deal with Ferrari and will now race a level below Formula One at the highest level.
“When I was 29, sitting on my couch I just wanted to do one race. If you realise that you are in control of what you can achieve, it sets you apart. Other people won’t have the same drive as you. You never know where you may find yourself,” he said.