Larry Lewis says goodbye to the pupils of Bokmakierie Primary School after serving there for 41 years. Gift of the Givers donated blankets and stationery to the learners. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - The principal of Bokmakierie Primary School in Hazendal, Larry Lewis, gave his all for 41 years. On Friday, he will officially retire, and Gift of the Givers came to say thank you for his service to the community. 

Lewis, 63, grew up in Athlone and was the first in his family to go into teaching. He became a teacher at Bokmakierie Primary in 1978 and was appointed principal in 1994.

Lewis was a strong figure, who children were able to look up to. The majority of the learners come from difficult situations and Lewis believed that if these children were to look up to him, then he had to carry the traits of an individual who shows them the correct example.

Gift of the Givers project manager Ali Sablay said: “Gift of the Givers honoured Mr Lewis because he offered a lifetime of commitment to the community of Bokmakierie, which is known to be an area filled with gangsterism and drugs. It’s not easy for any person to teach in this environment.”

Sablay said Lewis would often call their offices during religious occasions, expressing his concern about the children and their parents not having food to put on the table. He went beyond the call of duty to make sure every learner was comfortable at school and at home. Sablay said Lewis wanted the celebration to be for the kids, therefore each child was given a blanket, a stationery pack and a warm meal with fruit juice.

Lewis also used sport as a way to help children divert their focus into an activity, instead of becoming victims of socio-economic issues.

“When opportunities arose to expose children to things outside of the Bokmakierie area, then I would get them involved. I would strike up relationships with various uplifting organisations so that the children are able to benefit,” said Lewis.

Lewis said he made sure he knew the name and background of every child in the school because he didn’t just come there to teach, but to get involved and help them.

“The children would never fear coming to my office to speak about anything and I would always try and encourage them. I also sold pencils to them from my office as a way of interacting with them,” he said.

A Grade R teacher at Bokmakierie, Bronwyn Schilder, said: “Mr Lewis has a great love for the children. He taught many of the children’s parents and grandparents. Soccer is also one of his outlets that he likes to get children involved in it. He still plays soccer even though he is more than 60 years old.”

Mr Larry talking about his journey of being a principal at Bokmakirie Primary School for 41 years. Gift of the givers donated blankets and stationery to the kids. Video: Ayanda Ndamane/ANA
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Cape Argus