Former principal of Harold Cressy High School, Victor Ritchie. Picture: Supplied.
Former principal of Harold Cressy High School, Victor Ritchie. Picture: Supplied.

Mr Ritchie was dedicated to excellence

By Opinion Time of article published Oct 10, 2020

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By Fatima Allie

If 2020 has taught us anything, then it is that life should be acknowledged, appreciated and celebrated.

As the Harold Cressy Alumni Association (HCAA), we are heeding this call by acknowledging our teachers and former principal Victor Ritchie. We appreciate his legacy of teaching and leadership, and look forward to celebrating his 90th birthday on Thursday, October 15.

Ritchie taught at Harold Cressy High School for 37 years, and served as principal for 27 years.

Mr Victor Ritchie when he graduated from UCT in the 1950s. Picture: Supplied.

He chaired the school’s bursary fund with trusted colleague Mr Lionel A Adriaan, who said: “Mr Ritchie needs no introduction to leadership in the education, sport and the cultural arena because he was and is still a legend in those fields. He was a meticulous, competent and knowledgeable academic, with extraordinary and unique administrative skills. He was a mathematics teacher ‘par excellence’.

“My greatest admiration of this giant was when he, together with the staff, successfully navigated and guided us through the problematic and stormy student unrest period of 1976 and 1985. Happy 90th Birthday Mr Victor John Ritchie. Aluta continua! Viva Mr Ritchie!”

Harold Cressy High School was granted provincial heritage status six years ago. This great honour was the first to be bestowed to a school, as an educational institution, and not only because the school building was more than 60 years old.

Harold Cressy High School was granted provincial heritage status six years ago. Picture: Mxolisi Madela/African News Agency (ANA)

This is testimony to the ethos of the school that has been grounded in the values of non-racialism, serving the public interest and fostering the welfare of society since it was founded in 1950.

The school was first known as Cape Town Secondary School in three pre-fabricated rooms, in the backyard of Hewat Training College. It was renamed after Harold Cressy, the first black university graduate in South Africa.

Ritchie has been recognised and acknowledged with many awards and accolades.

In June 2010, Ritchie received an honorary degree in education from UCT. The citation read: “He played a principled role as an educator and leader, who successfully resisted the imposition of racially segregated and inferior education during the apartheid era. A UCT alumnus who, together with his colleagues, promoted principles, values and educational practices that were critical in establishing the school as a ‘professional learning centre’.”

Dr Shafick Ismail, chairperson of the association said: “The philosophy of the association is an extension of the legacy and ethos of the school, promoting the conviction and belief that every child can and should be helped to reach his/her full potential. In Mr Ritchie’s words: ‘success is achieved through the miracle of hard work’.”

The association was established in 2006, to preserve the school’s heritage and to provide a support base for former pupils to assist the school in various ways, said Ismail.

“The ongoing commitment to education, as displayed by Mr Ritchie and his former colleagues, all ‘giants’ in the field of education, is the main source of inspiration for the formation of the association.

“He is a legend in his lifetime and his exemplary leadership has always been a great source of inspiration for all of us at the association and I, certainly, have derived immense benefit from it in my role as chairperson of the association,” Ismail said.

Khalied Isaacs, current principal at the schools added: “Mr Ritchie, with his calm, compassionate demeanour and gentlemanly approach, taught at the school for more than 30 years. As principal, he left an indelible mark on the lives of the pupils and their families through his insistence on uncompromising standards in terms of conduct, academic performance and belief in oneself.

“His most famous words to students at school were: ‘We don’t do that here’, imparting high standards and including pupils as part of the Cressy family.

“I also take the opportunity to wish the Harold Cressy Matric Class of 2020 everything of the best with their final examinations, and encourage them to study the history of the school and the role people like Mr Ritchie played in creating an environment that allowed young people to rise above their circumstances, even in the darkest of times in our country. May they meet with the same success as generations of Cressyites past, under the guidance and support of their teachers, who continue the legacy of Mr Ritchie and his peers”.

On behalf of the Harold Cressy Alumni Association committee and the school, we would like to send our best wishes to Victor Ritchie on his 90th birthday. Continue to enjoy the grandchildren and Saturday afternoon Bowls.

“Thank you for the massive contribution to the Harold Cressy heritage and legacy. We hope and pray that you will continue to inspire us by just being you … The one and only Victor John Ritchie!”

*Allie is a committee member of the Harold Cressy Alumni Association

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