Obituary: Piet Visagie, principal of Pelham Primary for 21 years

2008-01-08 00:00

PIET Visagie (pictured), longstanding principal of Pelham Primary School, died last week in Yzterfontein after a short illness at the age of 75.

Visagie was born in Wakkerstroom in 1932. He was sent to boarding school in standard two during the war years. In 1946, the family moved to Cedara College and Visagie went to Voortrekker Hoërskool. It was there, as a keen rugby player, that he suffered the knee injury that would leave him with a permanent limp and end his participation in active sport.

After school he attended the Natal College of Education and the University of Natal, where he became involved in music and singing. As a student he was aware of, and troubled by, the public discrimination against Afrikaans speakers prevalent in Pietermaritzburg at the time — a discrimination that included the refusal of shop assistants to speak Afrikaans to customers.

Having taught at various schools in the province, Visagie joined the staff of Pelham Primary in 1963, becoming deputy principal in 1966 and principal in 1969 — a total of 28 years at the school, where he taught two generations of several families.

Talking to The Witness on his retirement from Pelham in 1991, Visagie spoke of the increasing pastoral role of a school principal that he had seen in his 21 years in the post, but agreed that, because he had known some of his current parents since they were children, his position was an exceptional one.

For nine years after his retirement, he headed the Toyota Teach Programme in Durban, developing management and science education in schools in the Umlazi area.

Aniele Woodhouse, the current deputy principal of Pelham, spoke of Visagie’s deep care for people, and his ability to anticipate their needs — whether they were long-standing friends and relatives, or casual acquaintances. She also referred to his wit and sense of fun.

Visagie leaves his life partner since 1969, Clive Basson, and his brother Frans and sister-in-law Laetitia. A memorial service was held yesterday in Yzterfontein. A second service will be held at Pelham school on Friday, January 18, at 1 pm.

The school extends an invitation to all past pupils, parents and friends and those planning to attend are asked to contact the school on 033 386 1211; 033 386 8288 or e-mail admin@pelham.co.za to facilitate catering.

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