Trojan horse remembered

2016-10-18 09:50
Hundreds of past and present learners and teachers of Belgravia High School and community leaders participated in a peaceful march on Friday to commemorate the Trojan Horse massacre, which happened in Thornton Road 31 years ago.

Hundreds of past and present learners and teachers of Belgravia High School and community leaders participated in a peaceful march on Friday to commemorate the Trojan Horse massacre, which happened in Thornton Road 31 years ago. ( Earl Haupt)

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Hundreds of past and present learners, leaders and teachers gathered at Belgravia High School on Friday to celebrate and commemorate alike.

The school celebrates its 60th anniversary this year (“High school celebrates 60th”, People’s Post, 2 February). They chose to commemorate the occasion by remembering the Trojan Horse massacre, which occurred in Thornton Road 31 years ago.

On 15 October 1985 apartheid police carried out a surprise attack, using live ammunition, on protesters.

Michael Miranda (11), Shaun Magmoed (15) and Jonathan Claasen (21) were killed in the attack.

Premesh Lalu, a published historian and former learner of the school, recounted the events of that day at the commemorative event. He also reminded the guests of the overall consequences of that day and urged that the massacre should not be seen in isolation.

“This was not a school boycott. It was a movement for education. It was a movement, another vision of society and another perspective on the world. The Trojan Horse massacre was not the ultimate event of 1985,” Lalu said.

“The day after the Trojan Horse massacre ... I recall the sombre mood that we had at school. We all thought how we were going to proceed under those conditions. But our response was guided by the deep sense of ethics, political sensibility and an understanding of high education and the intellect were important. We were determined not to simply pursue a struggle without thinking about the deep consequences about what would happen in those circumstances,” he added.

Belgravia High School, as part of the Athlone Students Action Committee (Asac), played a pivotal role in the 1980s in the student movement against apartheid.

Peter Williams, a former learner and founding member of Asac, delivered one of the many stirring messages at the event.

He said there were still lessons to be learnt out of the events of 30 years ago. Events like the commemoration of the Trojan Horse massacre served as a lesson to the current youth that the freedom they experience today did not come cheaply.

Many still lived with the scars of years gone by.

“We defied death on a daily basis and for [those who experienced apartheid] thinking about that time was quite an emotional experience. This event is about thinking back, about what happened in the 1980s and what had happened and passing that on to today’s youth.

“Our question to today’s youth is: ‘What is your vision?’ Because we had a vision. We put together what we wanted and where we wanted to go and we were prepared to pay for that with our lives,” said Williams.

While Williams acknowledged the legitimacy of the #FeesMustFall movement, he stopped short of endorsing the methods being used in relation to what students did during apartheid.

“We do not think that burning down your own institutions of learning is the way to go. In the 1980s we were able to distinguish between short-term demands, medium-term demands and long-term demands. We adjusted our strategies accordingly. We knew what our ultimate demands and our ultimate goals were. Today we do not see that distinction being made. We must learn from the 1985 and 1986 student movement,” he added.

Williams said every roleplayer in the country’s education system should band together in an effort to find a sustainable solution.

“To the #FeesMustFall campaigners, spearhead that call; show us your political understanding. Show us your position papers on where you are and where you want to go.

“Each party should come there. Back in the ’80s the government did not come to the table, but today at least you can hold the government to account. Today you can call them to such a meeting. Each party should come there willing to compromise. As opposed to burning down an institution, let us engage with intellectual discourse and chart the way forward,” said Williams.

He reminded everyone that the commemorative day itself was to help foster a more peaceful relationship with the police.

“This event today is about forgiveness, about reconciliation, it is about healing. As we go to march and lay our wreaths, we will have acts of symbolism where we will send out a message that we are reconciling with the police. The police acknowledge what they have done. It is about offering the hand of reconciliation to the police.”

Following Williams’s address, learners, teachers and guests participated in a peaceful march to the site of the Trojan Horse massacre to pay their respect in a wreath-laying ceremony.

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