unity and growth

Following our request for more information on this iconic sculpture on our school grounds, we received information from Mr John Paisley. John Paisley, an Art Teacher at Muir Primary in 1970, was commissioned by the Matric Class of 1970 to create the sculpture as their farewell gift to the school. The sculpture symbolised unity and growth - the circles growing upwards. Thank you, Mr Paisley, for creating such a beautiful sculpture for our school grounds.


student centre

The build: 2007


overview of our history



Mrs P.W.Hutton, headmistress from 1972 to 1987, wrote, “Our history shows how from very small beginnings the School, in spite of many problems and setbacks, has grown to its present size. The achievements of the past serve as an inspiration to us and we can face the future with confidence, knowing that our present teachers and pupils, and those who will come to us in the future, will not only maintain the proud traditions of our School but will add to them and to the luster of our good name.” Miss. Jean Bartlett (lady Principal from 1957 to 1972) wrote the following in a letter of congratulations on the occasion of our Centenary Celebrations. “ May you of the present cull all that is good and worthwhile from the past and carry it forward into the future so that the generations of Riebeek College pupils to come may build upon the firm foundations laid before your time, foundations strengthened and buttressed by your own loyalty and your own ideals.  May each one of you go forward into life with high courage, good humour and firm faith, using to the full whatever talents you may possess, and remembering always that “the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there, except those that sang best”. (Van Dykes)
We celebrate 140 years of achievements and inspiration with a look at the history of our school.
Going back in time to 1877, Dominee Braam Steytler, the founder of our school, made one of the best decisions in his life – to establish a quality school for girls only. Together with the synod of the Nederduitse Gereformeerde Kerk of the 1860s and ‘70s, they saw fit to fight for their belief in establishing a school for young girls. At the time, this was most unusual, as co-educational schools were then the norm. Their visionary insight and perseverance in striving to establish a quality school for girls only has stood the test of time
1877    Ds. A.I. Steytler instigated the formation of Riebeek College
            (Eerste Klas Meisjes School)
            First Name was Riebeek House (Now Grenville Mansions)
            Miss G. Hearson was First Lady Principal
1879   Number of Pupils 60
            Number of staff 4
1880   The school is known as De Meisjes School, Riebeek House
1881   Miss E.L.Y. Brown, Second Lady Principal
            Riebeek is recorded as Riebeek College for Girls
            Miss E.L.Y. Brown imported the SILVER BEE that is worn by Lady Principals
1885   Became a First Class Government School
1892   Riebeek was staffed to prepare candidates for the B.A. Examinations
1895   Number of Pupils 216
1896   Riebeek College Main Building in Church Street opened
1900   Miss M. Houliston, Third Lady Principal
1905   Miss G. Pollard, Fourth Lady Principal
1909   Miss L.C. Elton, Fifth Lady Principal
1915   Number of Pupils 338
1916   Mrs A.E. Thomson, Sixth Lady Principal
1923   Miss W. Linnell, Seventh Lady Principal
1924   House system officially begun with two houses – Elton and Eleanor
1930   Miss G.A. Schmidt, Eighth Lady Principal
1931   Riebeek College Old Girls’ Association Founded
1935   Number of Pupils 254
1936   The First School Dance was held
1937   Brandwag High School was started and the Afrikaans speaking pupils left Riebeek College
1938   Celebrations of Riebeek College 60th Birthday.
            Miss G.A. Schmidt moved for a new school and hostel
1944   Miss J.A.D. Miller, Ninth Lady Principal
1954, Another house was added to the expanding school. The new house was to be called Elizabeth, after Queen Elizabeth.
1955   Number of Pupils 479
1957   Miss E.J. Bartlett, Tenth Lady Principal
            Celebrations of Riebeek College 80th Birthday
1962   The split into units of College Hill Preparatory School (Sub A—Std 1)
            and Riebeek College Std 2—Std 10
1962   Move to new school in North Street
1969   Sholto McIntyre Hostel in Preller Street was occupied
1972   Mrs D.W. Hutton, Eleventh Lady Principal
            Prefabricated classrooms erected
1975   Swimming Bath came into use
1977   Celebrations of Riebeek College 100th Birthday
            Number of pupils 640
1979   Sholto McIntyre Hall burnt down
1982   Sholto McIntyre Hall re-opened
1988   Mrs N.J. Stear, Twelfth Lady Principal
            Established Founder’s Day Tradition
1990    Doors were opened to all races
1992   Riebeek College becomes a Model “C” School
1995   The Old Riebeek College Building in Church Street declared a “Listed Building”
            (Frontage of the building will always be maintained in its original state)
2001   School Badge Registered with Heraldry Office
2001   Miss L.E. Bekker, Thirteenth Lady Principal
2002   Celebrations of Riebeek College 125th Birthday
2007   The Student Centre officially opened and named “The Beehive Student Centre”
2008   Mrs M.A. Woods, Fourteenth Lady Principal, the very first Riebeek College Old Girl to be appointed in this position
2010   Riebeek was on national television when their ethnic song “2010” was performed
2012    Riebeek College (North Street Building) 50 years old
2015    Completion of administrative block named the Marilyn (Dodd) Woods Wing
2017    Mrs K. Stear, Fifteenth Lady Principal


some of the freedom of the school recipients

Mr S. Intyre, Mrs J. Basson, Mrs B. Lynch, Mrs M. Green, Mrs S. Potgieter, Prof C. Searle

mr s mcintyre
mrs j basson
mrs lynch
mrs m green
mrs s potgieter
prof c searle

Happy Days

By Mr N. Hoare


The year was 1976 and I arrived at    Riebeek after the June holidays as the first Deputy Principal,   having taught at Muir. The thought of teaching an all-girls class did not bother me ”“ for a few years before that I had been teaching Riebeek girls because Riebeek did not offer Physical Science until I arrived. I loved teaching at Muir and had been reluctant to move, but this was a promotion that did not entail a house move, so it suited me.


What I did not expect was the change of behaviour in an all-girls       environment! I thought the girls where undisciplined, noisy and          exceedingly quizzy about my personal life. The Muir boys came to      attention at lines: “School ‘tion! At Ease!” and really did not care what you wore or how many children you had at home. But I soon got used to that ”“ it was just a female thing.


The first six months on the job were very hard. I was Deputy but I only had one free period every second week and, to top it all, I had to teach two Standard 7 (Grade 9) classes at the same time in the lab because I did not have enough periods to teach them separately. At least I did not have sport to coach, but that did not mean no extra murals!


Soon after I arrived, Mr McIntyre (who was Head of the School          Committee) asked me to look into facilities and make recommendations. We had money to spend! I came up with three projects which became my special interests. The first was lack of storage. I designed what was to become known as the Jurgens Building. It incorporated a double garage for the school busses, an office for the school psychologist, a remedial teaching room, a chemical store room, a dark room for the Photography Society, a tuck shop leading off a tea room and a small store for the   prefects. I had a lot of fun with the tea room which was for serving   refreshments to sports teams in the afternoons and for the prefects’ use in the mornings. The tables folded up against the walls, while some bench seats fitted into others which were designed as boxes. My second project was to improve the stage lighting and the fitting of a modern dimmer board because I was very involved in theatre in those days. Finally, there was the quad which was a barren space. All the rooms in the science wing were extremely hot in summer and freezing in winter hence the introduction of trees was to form a micro climate and also to provide much needed shade for the girls during breaks. Finally the “mound” was to be a stage for outdoor theatre some time in the future. I got swimming pool      contractors to dump their waste material there. At the hostel I drew the plans for the conversion of a storage area into teacher quarters, and the extension of the principal’s flat to form an office area. When the new hall was constructed and, when I was acting principal, I applied for the land for the top fields next to the hostel. The late Mr Jooste and I marked out two hockey fields inside an athletics track on those fields. I remember that the wind was blowing so strongly there that the tape measure acted as a sail pulling two large men!


I also started the first Prefects’ Camp at Riebeek. My wife and I (and our baby daughter) took the prefects to Van Stadens Beach Resort where we hired several cottages. We really worked the girls hard so there was not much time to play.


I had been involved with amateur theatre in town since my arrival at Muir, so I was told to produce the one-act play for the annual Inter Schools’ Play. I found that I had a natural talent for it, winning the festival for Muir every year while I was there. The principal of Muir wanted me to direct a Shakespeare production, but I was not keen as I felt that I lacked experience for that type of theatre. So I chose a musical instead. We needed a few girls for the play Paint My Wagon, which was mainly for men, so Riebeek was approached, and that was the beginning of the bi-annual school musicals. Later, the trend continued with Riebeek now a full partner. Muir made the sets and had the musical director, Mr King, while Riebeek did the costumes and I directed. The musicals were hard work: rehearsals four nights a week for three to five months. It was time-consuming

because I was involved in set design, décor, props, programmes and tickets. The last musical in our hall was Grease but, for the Muir

Centenary, I was asked to do Fiddler on the Roof in the Muir hall. After the musical co-operation with Muir ended, I only did two full length

productions at Riebeek: I Remember Mama, which had a few boys in it and also the last play in the hall before it burnt down, and a thriller with Daniel Pienaar boys.


The night of the fire was something that will stay with me. In the early hours of the morning I received a phone call from Mr Vincent, headmaster of Muir Primary, who stayed in the house opposite the front gate, telling me the school was on fire. I arrived at about the same time as the fire engines and opened up the front doors for them. The heat was terrific, there was smoke, the noise of the fire and falling roofing. I went to call Mrs Hutton at the hostel and brought her over dressed in her gown. We made do with no hall for quite a while. Matrics wrote exams in church halls, inter-house plays became radio plays recorded on tape, and

assemblies were in the quad. The one good thing that came out of all this was that when the hall was rebuilt, other improvements were made to the school. The staff room was enlarged, a new kitchen was built, the hall acquired a balcony area and the Science Lab was reconstructed.


One project that I pushed for that never happened in my time as deputy was the Beehive. I had drawn sketches of a building constructed between two railway coaches which were going cheaply at the time. The idea was that the two coaches would provide seating at tables for eating and the area between them would look like a Victorian railway station, with iron girders and this would be large enough for socials, music and for writing exams. There was a problem transporting the coaches, so the building was never built.


I ran a Dramatic Society and an Astronomical Society. Our telescope is in the computer room and, although I have not used it for many years, I suppose it still works. I had to fundraise for that telescope which we bought through the planetarium in Johannesburg, but we also received donations from three people: Mr Jooste, father of Rupert (who taught History), my own father and Mrs Steyn. Since the biggest donation came from her, I called our telescope the Nellie Steyn Telescope.


Taking early retirement was a difficult decision. In hindsight, it was the wrong one. But one of the factors that prompted it was that if I did not go, we would have lost one of our senior teachers in a promotion post. But then something good did happen ”“ Mrs Woods became Deputy and then Principal! I have really never left this school that I love so much because I was asked to take just the matrics the next year, which I was very happy to do as my younger daughter, Stephanie, was in matric and was Head of Eleanor. Half way through that year I was asked to take a Grade 10 Geography class. When the lady who replaced me left after two years, I was back in my old post again!


Throughout my teaching career my wife, Yvonne, supported me beyond the call of duty. During my early years at Muir, she acted as prompt for all my plays, attended debates and drove boys to sport matches. This only stopped when we had our first daughter, Jacqueline, and we made the decision that she would not work while the children were young. Yvonne’s last job was as secretary at Riebeek College, her old school. She loved the   children very much and kept all the letters the juniors would write to her. She finished work on the last day of school, saw Jackie graduate as a Doctor and, two weeks later, lost her battle with cancer. She would be very proud of both her children today as I am of their achievements,  bearing in mind the solid ground this school gave them not only           academically, but also in leadership and community service.



Voices, Cars and Random Memories

Mrs A. Peltason


I remember the voices most of all, especially Miss Bartlett (headmistress of Riebeek from 1957 to 1972) who, my parents proudly insisted, sounded like the Queen! I remember her voice on the intercom and, most of all, I can still hear her voice in my head, like a kind of mantra, reading from the King James Bible, “Finally, brethren,

whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”. Years later it stirred my heart to hear the cultured voice of Mrs N Stear reading the same passage with all its nuances, suggesting in the very best way that we are all part of a great tradition at this school.


Then there were the cars: Miss Bartlett drove a Morris Minor and I was often ferried to public speaking functions in that little car, crammed in the back with a fellow-speaker, whom I think must have been Judy Watson, later to become headgirl after her sister Sally Watson had taken a turn at the leadership of the school. There was Mrs Stear’s fiery Fox, known for having a very heavy accelerator, Mr Ossher’s statement sticker, “It

happens” and, lastly, to keep up a long-standing tradition of funny little cars, there is Mrs Stevens’ present transport of choice. And then there was that old 40 seater bus that took us to hockey in Port Elizabeth every Saturday morning, singing songs all the way there and drinking cream sodas all the way back. Years pass and the parking lot remains much the same. There is the usual Uitenhage loyalty points for Polos and Jettas, mostly the simple choices of humble folk who have poured their lives into Education and into this  institution, of which I am proud to be a part. They do say sexy people drive black cars. If that is the case, then guess who wins the prize? Nice one, Mr Woods, whose alter ego is probably “the stig”.


I remember most fondly my first gym teacher when I got to high school, Miss Anne Webber. Everyone feared her more than God. Then one day in the old school hall, which still had ropes that we were expected to climb, a Standard Six class was left unattended for a brief spell. Falling off the rope onto a hard hall floor, Lorraine broke her arm at the elbow, so that it bent at right angles, the wrong way. I remember the panic and the    mayhem, and a frantic Lorraine running around shrieking, “Judy, Judy, help me!” I think Miss Webber must have returned and sorted out the problem but I cannot remember. That was all very long ago at a time when we celebrated “Grape Day” and bought grapes by the pound for two shillings.


This has been a random collection of thoughts, I know, but where does one start? What to put in? What not? The past is a rich tapestry, and we can but pull a thread or two.



Address at Founder’s Day

By Mrs N. Stear


I am delighted to return for a brief time to the Founder’s Day platform. Twenty-two years have gone since I first arrived at Riebeek ”“ a life-changing time in my long career. It    reminds me of what Marilyn said to me when I arrived in Uitenhage then. She said that if the children in Grade 4 asked me how old I was, I should say 22! They think that anyone over the age of 21 is old! I took her advice! Principal Marilyn has asked me particularly to reminisce about the year 1990 ”“ a

momentous period in our history in which formerly whites-only schools were to undergo radical change.


On 12th February 1990, the day after Nelson Mandela, not yet the President at that time, was freed from his imprisonment of 27 years, I said the following words to our learners (whatever happened to that perfectly suitable word ‘pupils’) in the morning assembly:


“I would be failing in my duty if I did not refer to the momentous events, which have occurred in the last week. Since the turn of the month, from the beginning of February, decisions have been made by our State    President which have set the stage for the act to begin, in what is already being called “The New South Africa”


‘You sitting here today, particularly the Standard Two’s (now Grade 4), may have cause to remember this time as a historical occasion.    Perhaps when you are old, you will tell your grandchildren about your memories of this past week and the weeks that lie ahead. Perhaps the whole school system as you know it today would have altered by the time you write matric. (For Grade 4’s that would have been in 1998 with Kerry-Lynn Thomson as Head Girl) Perhaps there will be an entirely non-racial system in which your school will no longer consist of a “Whites-only” group. Whatever happens, an exciting future awaits you.


Many years ago, in the early 1960s, the British Prime Minister, Harold McMillan, said, “The wind of change is blowing through all Africa.” We are now at the stage when we are aware that the wind has indeed blown, and the results for us must mark the beginning of a new South Africa.”


That was in February. In October we were the first in the country to go to the poll to vote to open our school. With 86% of the 90.5%, who exercised their right to vote, our parents answered with a resounding “yes”. We made national headlines in the press, the radio and television. Headlines such as “Full Marks to Riebeek”, “Famous Girls’ School Votes Yes”, “Riebeek First to Vote ‘Yes’ to Open Schools”, “Riebeek Shows the Way to New South Africa”, and many more, were splashed across the front pages of the South African press on the morning of 16th October. We were very proud of the vision of our parents and grateful for their trust in our ability to handle the changes to come.


How did we become the first school in the country to go to the vote? We had to give our parents 14 days notice of the election and I took advice from a senior lawyer that we were entitled to count the first day on which the notice was delivered. Our learners had to sign to take responsibility for giving the notices to the parents and the following morning, the slips with the parents’ signatures were returned. We checked up on everyone. I was keen to include the parents of all the learners as the matrics were almost ready to go into recess for their finals. I did not know that our school was the first to act so promptly until about two days before we were due to vote. Cathy Simpson was our head girl at the time and her and her prefect body can take pride in that momentous occasion. They can say with our soccer fans: “Ayoba ”“ I was there.”


And now, I look at the hall before me and I am reminded of words that I wrote in the school magazine of that year: “I believe that every child should be given an equal opportunity to receive a sound education. The education we offer should not be based on race, colour or creed ”“ but rather on what is suitable for each child who enters this institution.”


Riebeek has continued to offer that sound education ”“ which regrettable, is still not the experience of many a child in many a school ”“ after 16


years of democratic rule in our land! It’s a sad day when children have to report to the press that they have to share textbooks and that their  teachers are not present in the classroom ”“ and then are censured for daring to lodge their complaints to the world at large. May the day soon come when each teacher and each principal in our country say, “I am responsible.” Only then will we have learners showing pride in their schools, as we do in Riebeek College today.



Riebeek First to Vote ‘Yes’ to Open School

By Shannon Barry

“Read all about it! Read all about it! 86% vote yes to open school!”    Riebeek College made history in October 1990 when out of the 622   parents who voted to open Riebeek doors to people of all races, 536 voted ‘yes’.


Before the 1990s, laws were set in place to divide all people of colour and schools were allocated to the different racial groups. It was one school, our very own Riebeek College, that applied first to open its doors to

people of colour. A vote was taken by parents on the 15th October 1990 and in the Evening Post of 16th October it was written that Riebeek, “has voted overwhelmingly yes, setting a shining example for the rest of the country.” This is indeed true. In a political climate that was unstable, Riebeek College put its foot down firmly and began the process to open its doors to girls of all races. Through this, Riebeek has shown her dedication and passion for education and that women have a right to proper education irrelevant of their skin colour.


Of Riebeek’s overwhelming ‘yes’ vote, Llewellyn Williams said, “We in the Eastern Cape are normally seen as the ‘backwater’ of South Africa and it really is wonderful to be part of this positive attitude which presently manifests itself amongst a certain group of schools in our area.” Another member of the Uitenhage community supported the opening of schools doors by saying that it is the “only morally acceptable educational      principle” to do so. This is testament to the fact that the members of the Riebeek family and Uitenhage have a strong sense of will, humanity and ubuntu.


Many people felt that Riebeek would not be supported in their attempts, but Riebeek received much acclaim and support from people around the country. One of these people was Eddie Trent of the Democratic Party MP for Port Elizabeth. The VW Community Trust said that they looked forward to possibly assisting Riebeek College to show the world that Black and White South Africans are working together to build a strong Uitenhage and strong South Africa.


Riebeek was the first school to set the wheels of change moving to a democratic and non-racial schooling system and will forever leave their mark in South African history. The school gave hope to the rest of South Africa that change was coming and that a nation of empathetic people was being born. The educators and parents at Riebeek could not have imagined that their actions would one day result in Riebeek becoming more than just a multi racial school nurturing 700 girls but a second home and safe haven too. South Africa is truly alive with possibility.


Riebeek Opens its Doors: An Eye Witness Account

Bernadette Meiring (Class of 1999), an Old Girl, speaks of how she clearly remembers when Riebeek opened their doors and welcomed girls of colour. ‘I was in Std 4 and remember the whole of Uitenhage watching the news. Mr Hageman, our then Guidance teacher, was the TV spokesperson and very calmly told the news about Riebeek opening its doors, she says. Bernadette remembers the how the first five girls of colour were in her class and says she has managed to stay good friends with two of them. One has a younger sister in matric at Riebeek this year. 




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