The Heart of Port Alfred
Port Alfred School is a family school. We cater for children from nursery school to matric on one beautiful campus with one Principal and one Governing Body.
We celebrate our origin at a special Founders Day Assembly in August each year. On this special day, everyone takes the time to reflect on just how far our town’s oldest school has come since those early days of 1883. This was the year that the school was officially converted into a Government School and it was housed in an Anglican church building in Park Road. The school then had an enrolment of about fifty boys and girls.Over the years, the school has grown to nearly 1000 children from nursery school to matric. Rooted in a proud past, the Port Alfred School staff, governing body, alumni and greater community work together to move with the times, catering for the needs of our children on a multitude of levels.The school’s motto, “Facta Non Verba” meaning “Deeds and not Words” is an constant theme which the School underpins at every opportunity. Honesty, integrity, grit and determination, perseverance, loyalty and commitment are qualities held in high regard by one and all at Port Alfred School.
Our journey starting in 1882
As one of the oldest schools in the Eastern Cape we are exceptionally proud of our heritage
These schools were small and elementary and thus amalgamated. During this period, a guarantee system was in operation and the Government ruled that management of the institution should be in the hands of either a Committee elected by the guarantors, who made themselves responsible for all expenses, or of the local authority. (The State would supply a grant only on these conditions). Guarantees could be furnished for a one, two or three-year period and were generally furnished to supplement the salaries of teachers. The first guarantors and thus founders of our School were: – R.P. Venning, J.A. Guest, N.A. Nesbitt, J.W. Orren and Augustus R.R. Preston.
Two small private schools were operating in the town. A Girls’ School apparently run by a Miss Hockley and another by the Rev. Douglas Dodd.
1871 – 1877
W.C. Holesgrove succeeded Rev. C.R. Lange and remained until 1877 in which year the Government paid R100 towards his stipend.
James Murray is recorded as being a Schoolmaster at a salary of R120 per year and he appears to have run a moderately successful institution averaging about 28 students until 1841 when once more it ceased to function.
Turpin was informed by the Governor that the School was to be closed, a fact which was accomplished on 10th October 1832. The reason for the closure remains a mystery.
Major William Dundas visited the town with the purpose of arranging for a school to be opened in the Court House, the whole building being taken over for this purpose. The school was furnished and repainted at a cost of R30 and R6,75 respectively and a certain Joseph Turpin was installed as Schoolmaster. Students were enrolled in February 1828.
Thomas Jarman was a Schoolmaster in Port Alfred, at that time known as Port Frances. The school’s name was Port Francis School.
The town’s school was converted into a Government School, the Principal being the Rev. Douglas Dodd, who was also the Anglican Minister, and was housed in the Anglican Church building in Park Rd. Rev. Dodd, an Eton graduate was “a man of exceptional scholastic ability, culture and background.” The school then had an enrolment of about 50 boys and girls. Founders Day is celebrated in August each year, commemorating 1883 as the School’s official “date of birth”.
Rev. Douglas Dodd was succeeded as Headmaster by the Rev. Francis Flack, a brilliant mathematician who had received his Master’s Degree at Cambridge. A second campus was established on the West Bank and subjects taught included Latin, French, Algebra and the Elements of Natural Science.
The Church/School relationship came to an end. It would appear that the school had grown sufficiently to warrant a full-time headmaster. The Rev. Flack was succeeded by James Lean.
1900 – 1901
The two schools were united and moved from the rented Church buildings in Park Road to their new buildings, which are today situated between the Post Office and the Magistrate’s buildings. It is fondly referred to by locals as “the old Post Office”. There were almost 100 children.
The first School Board was established.
A new Headmaster in the person of Edward Henry Martin took over from Snelgar. Edward Martin was very active in the Civic and Church life of the town until his retirement in 1921.
James Lean retired and was replaced by Henry Charles Snelgar.
Claude Errington Warner was appointed Headmaster for a year.
Col. Ernest George Harvey, is recognised as the Headmaster responsible for the upgrading of the school and the establishment of tradition. Apart from renovating and painting the classrooms (mainly out of his own pocket), he established both an English and an Afrikaans Library and a cadet corps, purchased equipment and started or revived rugby, cricket, tennis, swimming and rowing. There is a note in the records stating that the headmaster and 12 boys proceeded with oxwagon to collect antheap material for a proposed cricket pitch. He introduced yearly concerts, designed the school badge, and in fact set the school on course in almost every way imaginable.
Mr Todd M.P.C. was present at the opening of school in January and spoke to the children mentioning the need for a new school and that he would do his best to implement it. In May, the school was visited by His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales.
Tennis was introduced an organized school sport. The first interhouse cricket match is recorded.
Hockey is introduced as a sport.
The new name, Queen Alexandra Secondary School was chosen, not directly, as is popularly believed, in honour of the wife of King Edward VII but because the new campus had previously been a botanical garden called “Queen Alexandra Park”. The original park gates today stand proudly on our campus as a gateway to our sports fields.
The School moved up the hill to its present site. Enrolment was nearly 200 children and the new school had all the modern conveniences. It now offered education up to Grade 10 / Standard 10 and was thus a Secondary School.
Electricity was installed at a total cost of £11.
No prizes were awarded as money was sent to the Medical Aid Fund for the Russian Front.
Bookkeeping (accounting) was introduced as a subject.
Victor Edward Symons, an Eastern Province man, was the next Headmaster and this gentle and kind man guided the school through the very difficult war years, before he moved on, leaving behind many friends and a well-run centre of education. In 1943 there were calls for high school status.
Shelter trenches were dug by pupils in case of attack. 60 extra children were entroooled while the air school was being built.
An excerpt from the Grocott’s Daily Mail reads: “The committee of Queen Alexandra School, Port Alfred, resigned yesterday as a protest against the dilatory and unbusinesslike methods of the School Board and Education Department. The school board assumed management of the school as a result.
71 students went by rail to Grahamstown to see the Royal Family during their visit to the city. As a result of this visit, a school uniform was suggested.
A telephone was installed and a school uniform introduced.
A Rhodes University graduate, Ronald Victor Stewart became what was to be the longest serving Headmaster in the history of the school.
The third Eastern Cape and Rhodes man, Keith Howard, became the headmaster. Under his guidance new sports fields were laid, a swimming pool was built with the help of Round Table 177, new uniforms and badges became accepted, and school enrolment increased to 325 students and there were renewed calls for high school status.
The first recorded multiracial matches played with the school hosting rugby and netball teams from Mtyobo Bantu School. A tractor was bought for use on the campus. The school Board again agitated for high school status.
isiXhosa granted as a subject after application to the Department of Education.
After a great deal of lobbying, a pre-primary section was opened. Permission was granted by the Department of Education provided the school pay for the building. The Parent Teacher Association, under the chair of Mr Sandy Inglis accepted the challenged and engaged the services of contractors, Douglas Brothers, to build the classroom and tuckshop (now known as the outside classrooms) during the December holidays. Domestic Science (Consumer Studies) was introduced as a subject.
The school was awarded High School status. As a result, a change of name became necessary and after much thought and discussion the present name Port Alfred High School was adopted.
The first Port Alfred High School class matriculated with a 100% pass rate! Nine boys and girls sat the exam. The 80s proved to be a period of rapid growth resulting in a large number of prefab classrooms being provided by the Department of Education. These were uncomfortably hot in summer and cold in winter.
Port Alfred High School celebrated its Centenary! Festivities lasted a week long with visiting dignatories, a procession down Main Street, a special Operetta and a Dinner/Dance. A big cake was assembled and decorated by the Matric Home Economics class complete with 100 candles and every pupil received a slice together with a commemorative coffee mug.
Due to the changing political dispensation in South Africa, Keith Howard retired as Headmaster at the age of 55 leaving behind a rich and deep legacy not least of which was a Hall, the first one ever in the history of Port Alfred High!
Roy Hewitt held the office of Headmaster and led our School from the Apartheid era into democracy. In 1991 the first four students of colour were warmly welcomed on campus: Jongisipho Matthews, Sylvia Roto, Singatwa Seti and Linda Magquntulu.
Roy Hewitt resigned to take up office as the Headmaster of Hudson Park High School.
1999 – 2005
Rob Le Roux held the office of Headmaster before moving on to Westerford High School in Cape Town where he is currently headmaster. During this period the number of enrolments grew steadily as did Port Alfred’s reputation as a centre of excellence.
2005 – 2019
Clive Pearson took office and has guided the school with a steady hand for more than a decade. During his tenure, an additional sports field was built, the club house erected and later extended and upgraded, the swimming pool complex upgraded, the tennis courts resurfaced, a mini-astro constructed, a counselling room created and the cricket nets upgraded. Staff numbers grew with the advent of the nursery school section and enrolment grew with several classes oversubscribed. In 2008 the School celebrated its 125th birthday in fine style and looks forward to its 150th celebrations in 2033.
Nigel Adams, a proud Eastern Cape man who holds a BA Arts degree from the University of the Western Cape and a B Ed from Rhodes University accepted the appointment to take over from Mr Pearson as Headmaster. He has majors in psychology, languages and accounting, holds a Higher Diploma in Education (HDE), a sports management certificate from Nelson Mandela University and has also studied school leadership and management through the University of Stellenbosch. His first appointment was at Alphendale Secondary School in East London where he spent 27 years, ending as the Head of Department for commerce. He then went on, as deputy Headmaster to Mr Nick Els, a proudly past Port Alfred High pupil, to Lilyfontein School which has a very strong focus on sport and the outdoors. Mr Adams’s vision for Port Alfred School is to ensure that we regain our leadership position as one of the schools in the district with a 100% matric pass rate.