Out to capture history

Lynn Williams

A GROUP of Grade 11 Bethelsdorp High School pupils plan to make history – literally! Under the leadership of acting principal Leon Arendse and teacher Lammert Malgas, 10 pupils have started to research the history behind the Willowdene forced removals.

Pupils have tackled the assignment as part of a school heritage project, seeing that their school forms part of the National Heritage Council.

In 2008, pupils did a heritage project on the Khoisan culture that was successfully exhibited at the South End Museum.

Arendse and Malgas said unlike Fairview, the Willowdene forced removals were something that had largely not been documented.

Malgas grew up in Willowdene. The fact that he started to document his experiences and spoke about them regularly played a part in the pupils selecting Willowdene as a research topic.

Willowdene is an area close to Fairview that housed more than 200 families.

“Available research shows families were forcibly removed from 1973 onwards. First they relocated to Uitenhage and later to Bloemendal,” Malgas said.

Arendse said the pupils wanted to capture the true essence of the area.

“We want to tell the story from the mouths of those who lived there and were removed. Those who are still alive are now between the ages of 70 and 90 years old.

“Among other things, we want to tell people about the three churches in the community, how kids spent hours playing in the Baakens River and picked fruits in the valley, and how many received a solid education at ‘die pienk school’ [the pink school],” Arendse said.

Pupil Kelly Humphries, 15, said the group would be interviewing former residents during the June holidays.

“We will gather information from old newspaper articles and other sources and collect old photographs and other memorabilia that people have held on to. Once the research is complete, we will decide how to package the information.

“We are all very excited and honoured that we are able to play a role in making sure this important part of our history is documented,” Kelly said.

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