Principal, Phoenix part ways

2018-12-18 06:01
Shafiek Abrahams has retired as the principal of Phoenix High School after first becoming acquainted with the school in 1983.PHOTO: Earl Haupt

Shafiek Abrahams has retired as the principal of Phoenix High School after first becoming acquainted with the school in 1983.PHOTO: Earl Haupt

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When the new academic year begins, Phoenix High School will start a new chapter. For the first time in 21 years, they won’t have Shafiek Abrahams walking through their gates to lead the school.

Abrahams first started teaching at Phoenix High when the school opened in the 1980s.

“We opened the school. I was at a primary school before, Saambou Primary, teaching maths. The then principal Mr Johnson came to fetch me along with my learners, because at that time the Grade 8s were at the primary school and I was teaching the Grade 8s. He brought me here and I did not even know what was happening, because I was just teaching my class. Then in 1983, 21 January, I taught maths to the Grade 8s and 9s and the rest is history,” says Abrahams.

He then, at the age of 39, became the acting principal of the school in 1998, assuming the permanent position a year later.

Abrahams says that throughout his years at the school, the very visible challenge of dealing with gang activity in the area has made it necessary to call in extra assistance, especially from the police. However, despite the challenges, Abrahams exudes and maintains a positive outlook, so much so that within three years of Abrahams taking over the reigns, Phoenix High was awarded the Most Improved School in the Western Cape by then national education minister Kader Asmal.

“We sustained this (constant improvement) in 2009 when we had a 100% pass rate among our matriculants. I consider ourselves to being among the schools, even though we are a township school, who achieved academically,” he adds.

In his 40-year career in education, Abrahams says that passion has been a key ingredient in ensuring the school could move from strength to strength.

“The success is that we retain that positivity among ourselves. We sustain positivity, encourage each other to be positive, we create a climate of positivity around us. We have cultivated partnerships because you cannot do it alone in these areas. We are passionate, because this is our life. Whatever happens, I have a saying every morning to keep us motivated and sometimes when we are down in the dumps, then we get the help of the police and we form partnerships with so many organisations such as Sanca and the police,” says Abrahams.

Manenberg police spokesperson Captain Ian Bennett says Abrahams has stood the test of time during his tenure.

“He served a diverse community with different cultures, while also witnessing the gang territories which was also formed at school.

“He has been inspired to inspire young people and still believes in them. Because in the beliefs he has in young people, the school is a place of safety and he could teach and ensure that learners become inspired to strive for the best that they can be. I, along with the management of Manenberg Police Station, wish him well in his new endeavours and it is the start of a new beginning and we wish him only the best,” says Bennett.

Gertrude Olkers from Hanover Park has been the caretaker at the school for its entire existence, and says Abrahams had a great relationship with people.

“When there was a problem and you came to him, he will sort it out and be strict, but he will get on with the day’s work.

“There will be a lot of things of him which will remain. The discipline of the school and the getting on with things as well as the way he communicated with the children and the parents, because he is part of the community. They will miss him very much. He would always listen to you when you had a problem, while also making you feel at ease. We are going to miss him very much and we are very emotional about it,” says Olkers.

Meanwhile, Abrahams hopes the school will continue to carry the values and passion he has tried to imprint on the school in his 35 years there.

Abrahams promised his family he would retire at 60, and hopes to spend more time with them, while also clocking up some valuable air miles with his wife.

“I have four children and seven grandchildren. I promised them time. It is the one thing I couldn’t give my children, but they always understood,” he says.

Abrahams says that deputy principal Jeremy Ontong will assume the role of acting principal in the time the advertised post takes to be filled.

When the new academic year begins, Phoenix High School will start a new chapter. For the first time in 21 years, they won’t have Shafiek Abrahams walking through their gates to lead the school.

Abrahams first started teaching at Phoenix High when the school opened in the 1980s.

“We opened the school. I was at a primary school before, Saambou Primary, teaching maths. The then principal Mr Johnson came to fetch me along with my learners, because at that time the Grade 8s were at the primary school and I was teaching the Grade 8s. He brought me here and I did not even know what was happening, because I was just teaching my class. Then in 1983, 21 January, I taught maths to the Grade 8s and 9s and the rest is history,” says Abrahams.

He then, at the age of 39, became the acting principal of the school in 1998, assuming the permanent position a year later.

Abrahams says that throughout his years at the school, the very visible challenge of dealing with gang activity in the area has made it necessary to call in extra assistance, especially from the police. However, despite the challenges, Abrahams exudes and maintains a positive outlook, so much so that within three years of Abrahams taking over the reigns, Phoenix High was awarded the Most Improved School in the Western Cape by then national education minister Kader Asmal.

“We sustained this (constant improvement) in 2009 when we had a 100% pass rate among our matriculants. I consider ourselves to being among the schools, even though we are a township school, who achieved academically,” he adds.

In his 40-year career in education, Abrahams says that passion has been a key ingredient in ensuring the school could move from strength to strength.

“The success is that we retain that positivity among ourselves. We sustain positivity, encourage each other to be positive, we create a climate of positivity around us. We have cultivated partnerships because you cannot do it alone in these areas. We are passionate, because this is our life. Whatever happens, I have a saying every morning to keep us motivated and sometimes when we are down in the dumps, then we get the help of the police and we form partnerships with so many organisations such as Sanca and the police,” says Abrahams.

Manenberg police spokesperson Captain Ian Bennett says Abrahams has stood the test of time during his tenure.

“He served a diverse community with different cultures, while also witnessing the gang territories which was also formed at school.

“He has been inspired to inspire young people and still believes in them. Because in the beliefs he has in young people, the school is a place of safety and he could teach and ensure that learners become inspired to strive for the best that they can be. I, along with the management of Manenberg Police Station, wish him well in his new endeavours and it is the start of a new beginning and we wish him only the best,” says Bennett.

Gertrude Olkers from Hanover Park has been the caretaker at the school for its entire existence, and says Abrahams had a great relationship with people.

“When there was a problem and you came to him, he will sort it out and be strict, but he will get on with the day’s work.

“There will be a lot of things of him which will remain. The discipline of the school and the getting on with things as well as the way he communicated with the children and the parents, because he is part of the community. They will miss him very much. He would always listen to you when you had a problem, while also making you feel at ease. We are going to miss him very much and we are very emotional about it,” says Olkers.

Meanwhile, Abrahams hopes the school will continue to carry the values and passion he has tried to imprint on the school in his 35 years there.

Abrahams promised his family he would retire at 60, and hopes to spend more time with them, while also clocking up some valuable air miles with his wife.

“I have four children and seven grandchildren. I promised them time. It is the one thing I couldn’t give my children, but they always understood,” he says.

Abrahams says that deputy principal Jeremy Ontong will assume the role of acting principal in the time the advertised post takes to be filled.

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