I was not exactly a high achiever at school but I knew that when I left I wanted to have something more than just a job – I wanted a career! I had my subject choices all mapped out for my Standard 9 and 10 years – English Afrikaans Accountancy Biology Typing and History. But then shock – horrow – they dropped Accountancy from the curriculum forcing me to choose Geography or Latin instead. Well my sense of direction is seriously faulty and I couldn’t have cared less about weather patterns,climate or the topography of the land so Geography was an absolutely no-no. I might have enjoyed Latin but I hadn’t taken it in the previous standards and so it was too late now! My parents investigated a number of other schools ‘up the line’ but none came up with better options and so they suggested I try for a commercial matric. That meant I would learn shorthand, typing, accounting and commerce in addition to my two languages. “After all,’ they said, “you will probably want to do a secretarial course after matric and this way you can go straight from school into a lucrative job. If you work hard and hone your skills you can command your salary and go anywhere in the world with you qualifications.” I’d already learned to type and I enjoyed Accountancy so perhaps they had a point. So off I went to Gardens Commercial School for the next two years. And I don’t regret it for one second. I became an expert typist, took down some rapid shorthand, aced my accountancy and ended up with a first class matric. BUT – I did not want to become a secretary. The call had come – to be a teacher!
In order to do apply I had to have a recommendation from my principal. “I want to apply to Cape Town Teacher’s Training College’ I said. He gave me a glowing testimonial but did not hold out much hope that I would be accepted – “They don’t take girls with a commercial matric,” he said – “Why don’t you consider becoming a commercial teacher instead – you’d handle the course brilliantly!” But I was adamant – “I don’t want to teach high school – I want to teach the little ones!”
He was right of course – CTTC refused me. Undaunted I decided to apply to Grahamstown and surprise, surprise they accepted me without hesitation! And as it turned out – this college was actually the best one in the country!
A handful of other Cape Town girls including my close friend, Ann – a year ahead of me – had to take the train at the beginning and end of each term. We would leave at 7 pm in the evening, change at De Aar where we usually met up with the Kimberly girls the next afternoon and then spend another night on the train arriving at 7 am the following morning. And we loved it – the fun and comeraderie made it all the more exciting.
College was great as everybody boarded in the four houses – Lincoln, Bangor, Canterbury and Winchester. There was great competition among the houses and a wonderful spirit of belonging. We were extremely well trained and instilled with an ethic that we have all maintained into old age.
Our founder, Mother Cecile, came to South Africa from England and started an orphanage and a school then a training school for pupil/teacher and finally in 1904 Grahamstown Training College was established to train teachers. Mother Cecile worked tirelessly and set a good example for all who followed. She died in her early forties.
Although the college closed in 1975, The Cape Town branch of the GTC Old Girls’ Guild celebrate Founder’s Day with a church service at Brook Chapel, Bishop’s School. We are a breed apart – and we range in age from 60 to 90+ Thanks to Bishop Christopher Gregorowski for conducting the service today and reminding us of the great work that Mother Cecile did for Education in The Eastern Cape in the early days.
After the service we enjoyed and wonderful tea and catch-up in the Staffroom – many thanks to Terry Wilke for once again allowing us to use the facilities at Bishops.