Established at a time that the education of girls and women was focused on what it took to be a good housewife, Good Hope Seminary Girls’ High aimed to, instead, provide girls with a well-rounded education.
The school, which turns 143 years old later this year and is the oldest girls’ school in the country still on its original premises, was last week awarded the Blue Plaque for its heritage status, by the Simon van der Stel Foundation.
At the ceremony, on Friday January 29, principal Desiré Christian, said the school had aimed to teach subjects which broadened the minds of girls and taught them to think out of the box.
“Our main focus is to grow all the girls and develop their skills,” she said.
Ms Christian said while the school is still on its original premises in Gardens, it had been renovated over the years, with a new wing having been built in 1962.
The school, however, has managed to maintain its charm. “You can see that it is a historical and beautiful building,” said Ms Christian. “There is a sense of belonging here because of the history and traditions that came before us. Since the inception of the school the demographics of the girls who attend the school have changed quite dramatically.”
The school’s deputy head girl, Viwe Smith, said they were grateful to have received the award. “We had little doubt that Good Hope Seminary had excellent historical credentials. We are 142 years old and will be turning 143 in October this year. The school was located on a new tram route that ran along Orange Street, a short distance away.”
Head girl Michaela Dolman added that the school had grown greatly since it opened in 1873 and still punches well above its weight in events such as debates.
“Acceptance and tolerance has always stood in Good Hope Seminary’s ethos. An historical and political milestone was reached in 1991 when the school was finally permitted to have pupils of all races.
“Today the pupil population is fully representative of the demographic of South Africa. It’s not surprising that subjects chosen for the curriculum were far removed from subjects such as needlework’. There was a wide variety of subjects such as algebra, geography, English literature and Latin. ”
Ian Pretorius, of the Simon van der Stel Foundation, said only buildings of significant heritage value were awarded the plaque.