Student, 53, returns 'home' in honour of parents who were forcibly removed

2016-04-21 07:47
Griezelda Stuurman (Supplied to News24)

Griezelda Stuurman (Supplied to News24)

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Cape Town – Being a student at Stellenbosch University is like returning home for Griezelda Stuurman.

Part of the grounds on which the institution is built was the land where she grew up before her family was forcibly removed from it in the 1960s.

The mother of two is one of five people recently selected for Stellenbosch University's Die Vlakte Bursary, established by vice chancellor and rector Professor Wim de Villiers as a means of restitution and development.

- More: Stellies bursaries for descendants of local forced removals victims

Stuurman, 53, is the only beneficiary who actually lived on the land while the other recipients are descendants of those who did. It was specifically set up for those whose families were forcibly removed from the area, or for their descendants.

Die Vlakte was a neighbourhood between Muller, Bird and Joubert streets and Merriman Avenue. The residents were mostly coloured people.

They were forcibly removed in the 1960s under the Group Areas Act. The university said it did not protest at the time and later built on the expropriated land.

Lost community

Stuurman says she still remembers playing outside her home in Banhoek Street as a little girl.

“I was 8 years old when we were told to leave. I didn’t have a proper understanding of what was happening, but what I do know is when we moved to Cloetesville, it was not the same as home,” she recalled.

The sense of community and familiarity was lost when they relocated, Stuurman said, and her parents never warmed to their new neighbourhood.

“In Die Vlakte, people would visit each other or pop in for chats. You knew someone cared. In our new home, my mother would only go to work and come home. She missed where we came from.”

Stuurman enrolled at the University of the Western Cape in Bellville where she received her diploma in education.

“I lived on the doorstep of Stellenbosch University but couldn’t study here because I didn’t have the permit which gave me permission as a coloured person to be here,” she explained.

Stuurman started her teaching career at Cloetesville High School in 1987, and currently teaches at St Vincent’s Roman Catholic Primary.

She also completed an advanced certificate in education at Stellenbosch in 2009, with arts and culture as her major.

She adopted baby Gabby in 2010 and relocated from a private Durbanville school to St Vincent's where the little girl, who suffered from a rare kidney disease, attended crèche.

Gabby died at the age of 4 in 2014.

Griezelda Stuurman after she completed an advanced certificate in education at Maties in 2009. (Supplied to News24)

Back to university

After Gabby's death, Stuurman – who also has two grown children – decided to go back to university.

A month after applying to Maties to do her honours in education, she bought a daily newspaper after seeing the headline related to corruption in the teaching sector.

“After I read the article, I paged through it further and saw the advert about the bursary. I took it as a sign because I usually don’t buy newspapers,” she said.

Stuurman found out a month later that she had been selected and that the bursary would go towards completing her honours.

“I am doing this in honour of my deceased parents. My mother was a housekeeper and my father was a shoemaker and upholsterer who taught their children about the importance of education. Today all of us hold tertiary qualifications because of them,” she said.

“My husband cooks and my children do their bit which helps me juggle work and my studies. It’s difficult, but worth it. I am doing this for me,” she said.

Her mother died a month before she applied at Stellenbosch.

“She developed Alzheimers at the age of 80. Whenever we visited her, she would tell us promptly at 18:00 that she wanted to go home. When we told her she was home, she insisted she wasn’t – it wasn’t Banhoek Street,” Stuurman recalls.

“The memories my family had of this place were happy before we were removed. I am making this a happy place for me again.”

Read more on:    university of stellenbosch  |  cape town  |  land  |  good news  |  education

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