Celebrating the diverse heritage of Western Cape schools

by | Sep 5, 2021

Rondebosch Boys’ High, Rondebosch, Cape Town

Blue plaques in South Africa date back to roughly 40 years ago when the first plaques were installed by the then Witwatersrand branch of the Simon Van der Stel Foundation (today the Heritage Association of South Africa). Although originally inspired by the blue plaques of the United Kingdom, they have been adapted to the South African context and are a relatively easy and affordable way of commemorating and promoting places of significance.

While the early blue plaques tended to focus on colonial heritage, they are now found in many parts of South Africa celebrating the diversity of the country’s shared heritage. From Constantia to Soweto, the blue plaque has become a recognisable symbol of heritage and community pride.

Since 2015 the  Centre for Conservation Education has spearheaded a unique blue plaque project in partnership with the Simon van der Stel Foundation Cape Town and supported by the Western Cape Education Department (WCED). Initially limited to the Cape Town Metro, since receiving the support and endorsement of the Heritage Association of South Africa, the project has been extended to many other parts of the Western Cape. Through the support of the Drakenstein and Stellenbosch Heritage foundations several new plaques have been installed. In Somerset West, the Helderberg Sunrise Rotary Club has similarly sponsored a plaque at the Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Primary School (1842). Most schools, however, pay for their plaques themselves.

According to project coordinator, Sigi Howes, applications for 2021 have included some from Franschhoek, Durbanville, Swellendam and George. The project has rapidly become popular with schools now that it is not limited to Cape Town.

The Blue Plaque Schools’ Project was born out of the recognition that schools have been overlooked as heritage sites and that the history of disadvantaged communities has been most marginalised. In addition, while schools have played an important role in contributing towards community development, there is often little community pride around places of learning with schools all too regularly being targets of vandalism. It is precisely because the awarding of a blue plaque rekindles community heritage that the WCED supports the Project. The most humbling experience has been the awarding of plaques to schools that have previously been marginalised, and whose role in the Struggle for Democracy has not hitherto been recognised. These schools have been particularly proud to receive their blue plaques and this is thus a huge step towards healing and nation-building.

Since the commencement of the project 36 plaques have been awarded to date.

All schools in the province can apply but they will need to demonstrate how they meet the project criteria. Schools may apply in one of 6 categories listed below, and their motivation is referred to a panel of adjudicators before an award is made. Note that application alone does not guarantee the award.

Blue plaque categories:

  • The age of the school (to qualify the school must be older than 125 years)
  • An architecturally significant building (e.g. a well-known architect; building style; etc.)
  • Exceptional service to the community (way beyond the call of expected duty)
  • Survival under difficult circumstances (e.g. Role in the Struggle for Democracy or within the context of forced removals; natural disasters; war etc)
  • A past learner or educator who has distinguished themselves (must no longer be living), or lastly
  • A school that has closed but made a contribution to the education of its community.

Schools that have received blue plaques since 2015 include:

School Year awarded Criteria used and description
Simon’s Town School, Simon’s Town, Cape Town 2015

Age of the School (1815)

Founded in 1815, Simon’s Town School is the oldest school in Cape Town, proudly providing quality education in this historic naval town.

Good Hope Seminary High, Gardens, Cape Town 2015

Exceptional Service to the Community

Established on this site in 1873 as the Good Hope Seminary for Young Ladies for the purpose of providing advanced education for girls.

Wynberg Boys’ High, Wynberg, Cape Town 2015

Exceptional Service to the Community

On this hill Wynberg Boys’ High School has served the wider southern suburbs community since 1841. Supera Moras.

Wynberg Girls’ High, Wynberg, Cape Town 2015

Age of the School (1884)

Wynberg Girls’ High School. Established as the Ladies’ Seminary in September 1884.  Honour before Honours.

Rondebosch Boys’ High, Rondebosch, Cape Town 2015

Famous Past Pupil: Allan Cormack

Allan Cormack, a former pupil of Rondebosch Boys’ High, was awarded the 1979 Nobel prize for Physiology or Medicine for the development of the CAT scan.

Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt, Tamboerskloof, Cape Town 2015

Exceptional Service to the Community

Educating global citizens since 1883 in an environment of mutual encounter of German and South African cultures.

Jan Kriel School, Kuils River, Cape Town 2016

Exceptional Service to the Community

Ter erkenning aan Jan Kriel Skool se toegewyde baanbrekerswerk in spesiale onderwys sedert 1937.

Langa High, Langa, Cape Town 2016

Exceptional Service to the Community

Established in 1937 by the community as Langa Secondary School, the first black high school in the Western Cape.

Rondebosch Boys’ Preparatory, Rondebosch, Cape Town 2016

Architecturally Significant Building

Rondebosch Boys’ Preparatory School, 1897. Architecturally significant main building by George Milne, Thomas Sladdin and Leonard McConnell, and The Lilacs by Herbert Baker.

St George’s Grammar, Cape Town 2016

Age of the School (1848)

Founded on the premises of the Cathedral in 1848, St George’s Grammar School is the oldest independent school in Cape Town.

Camps Bay Preparatory, Camps Bay, Cape Town 2017

Architecturally Significant Building

This architecturally significant stone building, designed in 1913 by EA Cook for the Camps Bay Public School (founded 1906), has survived as one of the few heritage buildings in Camps Bay during times of rapid change and development.

Star of the Sea Convent Primary, St. James, Cape Town 2017

Famous Past Educator: Fr John Duignam

Star of the Sea Convent School: this plaque honours the personal efforts, energy and sacrifice of Fr John Duignam in the founding and building of this proudly Catholic Dominican school from 1908 to 1925.

St Paul’s Primary, Schotsche Kloof, Cape Town



Age of the School (1859)

St Paul’s Primary School was founded in 1859 by the Rev TF Lightfoot in buildings originally closer to the church. As one of the oldest schools in Cape Town, it is proud to still be serving its community.

Dryden Street Primary, Salt River, Cape Town 2017

Architecturally Significant Building

This architecturally significant Dryden Street Primary School building was designed in 1908 by Cowin &Jaggard for the Salt River Public School, which grew out of a school started mid-19th C for the children of Cape Government Railways workers.

Alexander Sinton High, Athlone, Cape Town 2017

Survival under Difficult Circumstances

This plaque commemorates Alexander Sinton High School’s survival under difficult circumstances in its fight against Apartheid and the ‘Siege of Sinton’ in 1985. Vel primus vel cum primis.

Bonteheuwel High, Bonteheuwel, Cape Town 2018

Famous Past Pupil: Ashley Kriel

In honour of the activist Ashley Kriel (1966-1987), who attended Bonteheuwel High School, and who was slain in the pursuit of justice and freedom.

Athlone High, Athlone, Cape Town 2018

Survival under Difficult Circumstances

In honour of the many students of Athlone High School who fought valiantly against Apartheid Education, including the slain activist Dulcie September (1935-1988).

Beau Soleil Music Centre, Kenilworth, Cape Town



Architecturally Significant Building

Awarded to Beau Soleil Music Centre for this architecturally significant neo-Gothic Victorian mansion, built in 1877 as a private residence.

Centre for Conservation Education, Wynberg, Cape Town 2018

Exceptional Service to the Community

Since 1836, serving the community continuously as School of Industry, Aliwal Road Primary School, Centre for Conservation Education and Education Museum – the only one of its kind in Africa.

Muhammadeyah Primary, Wynberg, Cape Town 2019

Famous Past Teacher: Muhammad Saleh Berdien

In honour of Muhammad Saleh Berdien, founder of the Moslem Education Trust in 1927, and the first principal of Muhammadeyah Primary School from 1929 to 1939.

West End Primary, Lentegeur, Cape Town



Exceptional Service to the Community

Awarded to West End Primary School for exceptional service in creating opportunities for the School’s community.

Paul Roos Gymnasium, Stellenbosch 2019

Age of the School (1866)

Paul Roos Gymnasium

Established in 1866 as the Stellenbosch Gymnasium. In 1874 it pioneered tertiary education, which led to the founding of the University of Stellenbosch.

Paul RoosGimnasium

In 1866 as die Stellenbosch Gimnasium gestig. ’n Uitvloeisel hiervan is hoër onderwys in 1874 en die totstandkoming van die Universiteit van Stellenbosch.

Somerset West Primary School, Somerset West, Cape Town 2019

Age of the School (1820)

Hierdieskool is in 1820 deur die NG Kerk begin as die Somerset-Wes Distrikskool. Became Somerset West Public School in 1865. Nil sine labore.

La Rochelle Girls’ High School, Paarl 2019

Age of the School (1860)

Founded in 1860 as a school for young ladies.

“Speak to our daughters that they go forward” Martha Cillié (Principal 1899-1921).

 Hoër Meisieskool Bloemhof, Stellenbosch 2020

Age of the School (1875)

Hoër Meisieskool Bloemhof.

In 1875 gestig as die ‘Stellenbosch Girls’ Public School’. Van 1907 tot 1960 in die rooibaksteengewelgebou in Ryneveldstraat, vandag die Sasol Kunsmuseum. In 1960 stig die hoërskool af enverskuif na hierdie perseel. ‘n Trotse Afrikaanse Meisieskool.

De la Bat Skool vir Dowes, Worcester 2020

Age of the School (1881)

In 1881 gestig deur die NG Kerk om na die behoeftes van dowe en blinde kinders om tesien. In 1905 stig die Skool vir Blindes af en word hierdie skool die Worcester Skool vir Dowes. Verskuif in 1932 na die huidige hoofgebou. In 1981 word dit die De la Bat Skool, vernoem na Jan de la Bat, die eerste skoolhoof.

Die Bron Primêre Skool, Stanford 2020

Age of the School (1865)

Established in 1865 as the Stanford English Church Mission School by St Thomas Anglican Church. Moved to this site in 1939.

Laerskool Hendrik Louw, Strand, Cape Town 2020

Age of the School (1880)

In 1880 as die ‘Somerset Strand Public School’ gestig in die ou Metodiste Kerk op die perseel waar Friedman & Cohen later opgerig is. Vernoem na Mnr HA Louw (Hoof 1915-1946).

Nederburg Primêre Skool, Paarl 2020

Famous Past Pupil

In recognition of Chester Williams (1970 – 2019), a learner at this school from 1977 to 1983. Springbok rugby player from

1993 to 1998, playing 27 matches for South Africa.

Paarl Boys’ High School, Paarl 2020

Age of the School (1868)

Paarl Boys’ High. Established in July 1868 as the Paarl 1st Class Public School and the successor to the two Government Free Schools of 1823 and 1841. Later bekend as HoërJongenskool.

Paarl Girls’ High School, Paarl 2020

Age of the School (1876)

Gestig op 17 Januarie 1876. Die laat-Victoriaanse gebou word op 26 Julie 1880 geopen. “Let us learn then to live and make use of the present”.

Pieter Langeveldt Primêre Skool, Stellenbosch 2020

Age of the School (1830)

Born out of slavery; removed by segregation; transformed through passion and loyalty.

Hierdie skool is in 1830 as the Rynse Sendingskool op Die Braak begin, en sluit die ou Slaweskool van 1790 in. In 1977 weens die Groepsgebiedewet na Cloetesvilleverskuif. Vernoem na Mnr PG Langeveldt (Hoof: 1923-1955).

Rhenish Girls’ High School, Stellenbosch 2020

Age of the School (1860)

This school was founded on 1 May 1860 as the Rhenish Institute by the Rhenish Mission Society. In its early years it occupied buildings on The Braak, two of which still exist: the old Rhenish Institute (today the PG Olivier Art Centre) and the 1905 gabled building next to it. In 1958 the High School moved to this site. Proud to be the oldest girls’ school in South Africa.

Rustenburg Girls’ Junior School, Rondebosch, Cape Town 2020

Architecturally Significant Building

Rustenburg was originally an outstation of the Dutch East India Company where vegetables and wine were produced for passing ships. The first house on this site was built in 1666, which Cape Governors used as a country retreat. It has since been twice altered. The treaty by which the Cape surrendered to Britain was signed here in 1795. Rustenburg Girls’ School was founded here in 1894.

Simond Private School, Paarl 2020

Age of the School (1852)

Commemorating educational service to the Drakenstein community on this site since 1852. Named after the Huguenot minister, Rev Pierre Simond.

Somerset-Wes Metodiste Primêre Skool, Somerset West, Cape Town 2020

Age of the School (1834)

Founded in 1834 by the Rev Barnabas Shaw, the first Wesleyan Methodist missionary, this school has been on the same site since 1842. We are proud of the community upliftment and educational role it has played through the years.