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History

“Dennoch Fest und Frei” - steadfast and free in spite of all odds, is the motto of Wartburg Kirchdorf School and we have managed to uphold a hard working ethos amongst our learners for 130 years. In 2011 we celebrate 130 Years of Education in Wartburg and we are privileged to be honouring this fine establishment and the community it serves so well.

The School has been closely associated with the growth of the German community in the district, which had its roots among the first settlers who came to Natal in 1848.

The German settlers around Noodsberg Road founded the first church and school at Kirchdorf in 1881. The Wartburg Church and School came into existence in 1892.  In 1931, the two congregations, after many and difficult negotiations, decided to have a combined school, which would serve the community better than two separate schools. In all matters concerning the new school, and later also the Schülerheim (hostel), the two congregations made decisions together and shared all the responsibilities.  It was therefore natural to choose the only name that was appropriate under these circumstances and the combined schools became the Wartburg Kirchdorf Government School.

As more and more farmers began to settle in the area, the new Wartburg Kirchdorf School grew steadily and was given a tremendous boost during the 1960’s when a sugar mill was built in the district. This brought many more people to the area and the Wartburg Kirchdorf School has been growing from strength to strength ever since.

This School has undergone many changes over the years and has grown from its very humble beginnings, into a School with a proud reputation for consistent academic excellence.

Humble beginnings

Mr W Rohwer was the Headmaster of the Kirchdorf School prior to the amalgamation and Mr F J Schulze was appointed as the Headmaster of the new combined School.  He stayed until 1937.
 

Our proud heritage began with a vision and one of the principal characters of this vision was Mr H E Wiese. When he arrived in 1937, the secondary section was in its infant stages and the success of this endeavour was still in the balance. Mr Wiese wanted to establish Wartburg Kirchdorf School as one of Natal’s leading secondary schools, and through his vision and the efforts of the community, the numbers of the School doubled, placing Wartburg Kirchdorf School on the map.

At the time of Mr Wiese’s internship, the School had no secretary to answer the phone, attend enquiries, correspondence, office routine etc. This was the responsibility of the Headmaster who was also required to teach. Little wonder therefore, that Mr Wiese’s classes invariably began with, “Guten Morgen Klasse. Kladdebücher ‘raus! Seite?…Erst mündlich weiter…”.

Mr Wiese left at the end of 1954 after 18 years of service to the School. Some of the plans, which had begun to take shape in Mr Wiese’s last years at the School, came to fruition soon after his departure. They were extra classrooms, an Old Scholars Association and the addition of a sports field that had been Mr Wiese’s dream.


Mr R J G Schütte took over as Headmaster of Wartburg Kirchdorf School in 1955. He was faced with the problem of accommodating 245 pupils, who were now enrolled.  Three prefabricated classrooms were to be supplied, but the parents rallied and after completing the necessary excavations for the quad and three classrooms, permanent buildings were erected instead. Two more classrooms were promised the following year.

Mr Schütte introduced the first Speech Day as we know it today in his first year at Wartburg. Dr A Seele was the first guest speaker to address a full hall on 9 December 1955 and parents watched proudly as their children received prizes and had a chance to view their children’s work that was exhibited.  Until 1963 this ceremony took place on the last day of the school term in the morning. From 1963 onwards it was held in the evening to accommodate more parents who were interested in their children’s achievements.

was another milestone in the history of the School.  The new sports fields were opened on the day of the Inter–House Athletics meeting. This provided the desperately needed space for all the sporting events for each age group.  New trees were donated and planted by pupils to replace the pines in front of the School, which had to be removed in the process of levelling the fields.

The first full time secretary, Mrs Nora Gevers, was appointed in 1957. Mrs Tilly Gough succeeded her in 1958. Mrs Irmgard Smith was appointed as a part time secretary in 1970. Both Mrs Gough and Mrs Smith moved with the High School to the new buildings in 1974.  Mrs Nora Gevers returned to the Primary School as the full time secretary that same year.

Some interesting extracts from the School’s history.
1940 – A bad German measles epidemic caused the School to close from 9 December to the end of term.  The teachers had to remain.
1941 – November 24 - Half-day School as a result of excessive heat.
1948 – Opening of the School delayed by a week as a result of a polio epidemic.
1950 – 28 and 29 August - Half-day School as a result of excessive rain.
1962 – August - Half-day School, bus bogged down. Few children were at School as a result of excessive rain.


The Matric Farewell Dinner, a tradition that is still going today, was inaugurated in 1958. This is the Gala event of the year in which the Matrics and Staff are entertained in an exotic ‘location’, decorated by the Grade 11’s. There is a three-course meal and in recent years the Grade 11’s also provide entertainment in the form of song, dance and drama.

When Mr and Mrs Schütte went on long leave in 1960, Mr H C Sparks was Acting Principal. Under his go-ahead leadership, extensive improvements to the sports fields like the grassing of the banks and re-surfacing of the tennis courts were undertaken by him and the Sportsmaster, Mr W Straeuli.

In the same year Mr H G Hillermann, an old scholar of the Kirchdorf School and an enthusiastic sportsman, came to Wartburg and together with his wife took over the running of the “Schülerheim”.  Mr Hillermann succeeded Mr Sparks as Vice Principal when the latter left the school in 1965 after almost nine years of dedicated service.

The School grows

Agricultural developments in the late 1950’s and throughout the 1960’s had a significant impact on the growth of the School.  Wattle plantations, maize fields and pastures made way for the cultivation of sugar cane, which proved to be a more lucrative investment.

By 1964 the Illovo Sugar Mill and houses for its employees was being built at Jaagbaan and in Wartburg.   These developments meant that plans had to be made to meet the requirements for additional staff and classrooms to facilitate the expected increase in pupils. 

Four prefabricated classrooms were supplied in 1966. Between 1964 and 1968 enrolment increased from 334 pupils to 444 pupils enrolled at the School.  Eskom employees also settled in Wartburg and their children attended the local schools. Another boost to the numbers came when the Lilienthal Government School was closed at the end of 1968.  All government property was transferred to Wartburg.  A second bus service was instituted to cater for pupils from that area.

Extensions and improvements to the “Schülerheim” boarding facilities over the years brought more pupils to the School. Seven prefabricated classrooms were supplied in 1969 and electricity was installed in the whole School.

It was clear that no further expansion was possible at the present premises as there was no more suitable open land available in the vicinity of the School. The only way forward was to find a site for a separate High School.  A suitable piece of land was found and acquired and by May 1970 work began on the new buildings.

At the end of 1970 Mr and Mrs Schütte retired. During his tenure at the School, pupil numbers rose from 245 in 1955 to over 500 in 1970.  Throughout Mr Schütte’s term of office he had to deal with staffing and accommodation problems that arose from the rapid growth of the School, the consequent division of big classes into two groups and the introduction of Afrikaans medium tuition. In addition the ever-increasing inadequacy of sports facilities was a great concern. Mr Schütte, however, exerted himself to overcome all these problems. Unfortunately he did not live to see the completion and opening of the new School as he passed away in October 1972.


Mr W E A Straeuli was appointed Principal and his associations with the School date back to his own school days.  He was in Class i when Wartburg and Kirchdorf Schools were amalgamated.  He came to the School as a student teacher during his training and later as Assistant Teacher/Sports Master for eight years. After having spent some years as Vice-Principal at Stanger and a term of office as Organiser for Audio Visual Education he was appointed Principal at Wartburg Kirchdorf School.

There were 505 pupils on the registers in January 1971, 315 of these were in the Primary section and 190 in the Secondary section. The staff consisted of the Headmaster, 33 staff members and two secretaries.

The School’s Resource Centre came into full operation in September 1971 with classes doing self-study assignments.  The ‘70’s heralded the first School ‘operetta’, H M S Pinafore and a similar performance Brigadoon, was staged in 1973. That same year four pupils and one old scholar were members of the Natal Youth Choir that journeyed to Sardinia to take part in the Folklore Olympiad at Nuoro.  People there refused to believe that they were from South Africa, because they were white; but the same people were gullible enough to believe the story our exasperated pupils then told them, namely that South African’s were black in the hot South African summer, but turned white during the cold winters, for at that time it was winter in South Africa.

Separate Primary and High Schools

A historic occasion for the School was the division of the Primary and the High Schools in 1974. At the last Speech Day of the School as a combined Primary and High School at the end of 1973, Mr P R T Nel, the Director of Education, was the guest speaker.  From the beginning of 1974 the School was split into a Primary School (Class I – Std. IV) and a High School (Std V – Std X). As the new High School buildings were not ready for occupation, the Schools had to continue to share the same buildings in the High School. In 1976 Std V returned to the Primary School.

On April 9, 1974 after a special assembly, the High School pupils, led by the Head Prefects carrying the School banner, and accompanied by their class teachers, marched to the new School.  To mark this historic occasion a tree-planting ceremony was held at the High School.  A whole row of trees along the street in front of the School grounds were planted by a number of prominent personalities connected with the School, the Principal, Head Prefects and Class Captains from each class.

The tiered seating, which was donated by parents and the Old Scholars Association, was opened by Mr J Mentz at the annual Inter-House Athletics meeting in 1977. Mr Straeuli was promoted to Assistant Planner and left the School in 1977. Mr Straeuli steered the Schools through some significant stages of development and the School and Advisory Board bade him farewell in a moving ceremony on speech day in December 1977.

Primary School

Mr W K B Schulze was the Principal of the Primary School from 1974 – 1977. When Mr Schulze took over there were 250 pupils in the Primary School. According to a directive from the Natal Education Department, the Primary School, which had previously only catered for pupils up to Std. IV had to now cater for Std. V and the Std. IV pupils remained at the School from 1976 to complete their final year at Primary School.


Mr W J Garz was appointed Principal of the Primary School between 1978 – 1986.  In 1982 the School Hall was completed and the tennis courts were resurfaced.

saw the worst drought in living memory and the whole community was faced with water restrictions and water conservation.  There were also rumblings in the Department of Education that the financing structure would change drastically and that the financial responsibility to the School, by the parents, would be great.

It took eighteen months of disruption, but finally all the renovations to the School buildings were complete and by 1985 Wartburg Kirchdorf Primary School could boast that their facilities were on a par, if not better than most other primary schools in Natal.  It took another year to finish the paving on the tiered seating and to complete the rockeries and gardens around the Primary School to make it look beautiful.  Cricket nets were built and the tuck shop was started with the help of the parents. Mr Garz retired in June 1986.

A dynamic and motivated Mr T S Elliot was appointed Principal in 1986, however he did not stay long and within six months he was promoted as Principal to another school in Pietermaritzburg.


When the High School and Primary School separated in April 1974, Mr U Göhring clearly decided that he would aim to become the Headmaster of the Primary School.  His appointment as Principal in 1987 was a dream come true.

In 1989 the new school fee structure was put in place and the parents were expected to pay more at the School as Government financial aid was capped. The concept of parents putting education right at the top of their budget had arrived. Paying school fees and being involved in novel ideas for raising funds was going to be necessary to enhance the educational possibilities of all the pupils.

earmarked a big change in school policy. Model C schools emerged and education as we knew it would change forever. The preservation and prosperity of the School’s ethos, namely its character, tradition and above all its standard of education had always been the prime objective of the School. Maintaining this would prove to be more difficult as the Government changed and Education policies followed suit.

Despite these changes the Primary School under the capable guidance of Mr Göhring and his dedicated staff, managed to maintain a high standard, both in the classroom and on the sports field. With the dedicated help of the staff and the community, the Primary School survived the storms and managed to hold their heads up high. This unity was to help them with more impending changes that would dramatically impact the whole community.

High School

-  An Interim period.

Mr H K Timm relieved Mr H R Böhmer of his duties as Acting Principal in July 1978, but did not stay long. Shortly after settling in, he was transferred to Carter High School in Pietermaritzburg, after serving only six months at the School. Mr H R Böhmer once again found himself in the office as Acting Principal and was appointed Principal in July 1979.


Centenary Celebrations
1981 was the year that will be remembered as the year of festivities. Centenary celebrations in February, the Republic Festival in May, the celebrations commemorating the Centenary of Education in Wartburg, the Golden Jubilee of the Wartburg-Kirchdorf Schools and the Silver Jubilee of the Old Scholars Association. 


A quarter century passed in a flash. Tilly Gough matriculated at Wartburg Kirchdorf School in 1945 and 13 years later joined the High School as a part time school secretary in September 1958.  After 25 years service she wrote, “I realise now that 25 years – when thought of in terms of ‘time’ seems an eternity, but when one has worked with such wonderful colleagues as I have, and enjoyed one’s work as much as I have, the 25 years seem to have flown.  I look forward to another few years of good health and the ability to continue putting a little back into the School that gave me and our children a good start in life.”  Mrs Gough is still giving back to the School. As we commemorate our 125 year celebration she helps us in the thrift shop and we all still enjoy her sunny disposition and friendly smile. Mrs Gough we are privileged indeed to have such a dedicated staff member still in our employ.


The introduction of the School newspaper, the High’s Eye was inaugurated. The newspaper was launched at the request of the prefects and class captains.  They felt that such a newspaper could be used as an effective pupil mouthpiece, in order to improve communication and encourage initiative at the School. The pupils chose the title, High’s Eye, which they felt reflected the way they perceived the goings on around them.

The contents of this magazine included pupils essays, letters to the editor, reviews, puzzles, reports and personality profiles. Initially a number of teachers assisted with the editing and layout, but by the third edition the pupils were doing most of the work themselves; thus making it a pupils newspaper in every way. The High’s Eye is still in production today.

Mr and Mrs Böhmer left after 14 years service to the School. Mr Böhmer’s love of music was a great benefit to the School. Assemblies changed under his direction with the introduction of the School brass band. Pupils arriving at the School for the first time did not hear the usual piano accompaniment with the hymns, but the resonant sound of the brass band. Mr Böhmer spent a great deal of his time during the holidays in the wood-work room restoring school furniture and this dedication to the School will always be remembered.


Mr C Waddy (1987 – 1990), joined the staff as Principal in 1987 and left at the end of the second term in 1990, for greener pastures (on promotion to Kingsway High). Miss W Bornheimer was appointed as Acting Principal for the remainder of the year. 


Mr C Johannes, an ex teacher of our School, was appointed Principal. Mr Johannes taught at Vryheid High prior to his appointment.  Some sweeping changes in education occurred during Mr Johannes’ tenure. Drastic staff cuts were to be implemented and shortly afterwards the Education Department gave us virtually no option but to become a so-called “State-aided” or “Model C” School. The most noticeable difference being the increase in school fees.

In , Mr G Baxter was promoted to Deputy Principal. Roland Johannes won first prize in the Grade 8 section of the nationwide Sanlam Unit Trust World Knowledge Olympiad in 1993. He received R1400.00 worth of Sanlam Unit Trusts.


The School decided to introduce a light music syllabus for Grade 8 and Grade 9 learners. They hoped that this would encourage learners to take music as a subject.

The election of our very first Black President, Mr Nelson Mandela, and sweeping changes in Government policies regarding Education in South Africa, saw the first black pupils enrolled in 1994 as part of the new era of history that the School faced. They settled down very well to the routines and the discipline at the School. A sponsored Golf and Family Day was organised by the Old Scholars Association and the Governing Bodies of both the High School and the Primary School to help raise funds for the Wartburg-Kirchdorf Educational Trust.

The sport of fencing was introduced to the pupils at Wartburg under the guidance of a dedicated teacher, Lohann Botha. After only 6 months training,  they entered their first National competition, the premier fencing event in the country. Two bronze medals were awarded to Wartburg Kirchdorf School pupils in the U20 Sabre and Foil categories. Carl Oellermann won the Master of Arms award for overall best performance in all the categories. He went on to take 4th place in the Natal Open and in Senior Men’s Sabre.

Another sporting first was the introduction of the School’s first squash team. Louise Callaghan featured in the Natal Junior squash team that embarked on a tour to Cape Town’s National Inter-Provincial event.

In some noteworthy achievements were attained.  Udo Lucht obtained 7 A’s and 1 B in the Matric finals.  This was one of the better performances by a Matric pupil of this School over the years. On the sports field, noteworthy highlights included Elke Oellermann and Lucy Trodd’s inclusion in the Midlands U16 A Hockey Team, Dieter Lütge’s selection for the Midlands Rugby Team and Egon Schulz’s selection to the Natal U15 Country Schools Cricket team and then to the South African U15 Country Schools Cricket team.

Indoor hockey was introduced to the School after Mr Dietmar Meyer helped turn the Agricultural Hall into an indoor court. The School could not rely on the financial assistance of the Government to help maintain the School buildings and extensive maintenance work on the buildings and the grounds was undertaken, with the outside of the School and a few classrooms being painted.

revealed more surprises on the sporting field such as Golf, Polo Crosse and Angling with pupils excelling in activities over and above those the School offered. Planning had already begun regarding the amalgamation of the Primary School and the High School.

A rugby dinner was arranged to raise funds for the 1997 tour to Zimbabwe.  Three prominent players, Wayne   Fyvie, (Natal), Jeremy Thompson (Natal and South Africa) and Ryan Strudwick an ex pupil, (Wartburg 1st XV 1991 and Natal) attended the evening. The highlight of the evening was an auction of rugby memorabilia and 10-year-old wines.  A positive spin off was the auctioning of a caricature of Wayne Fyvie, drawn by Barbara Love, to raise funds for the James Hill Trust Fund.


Since 1881 there has been a School in Wartburg dedicated to the quality of education of the children from the district.  This drive for quality led representatives from the Wartburg Kirchdorf Schools (both Primary and High) to engage in discussions with representatives from the other local schools in Harburg, New Hanover and Hermannsburg. The objective of these discussions was to try to come to a common view of how to ensure the long-term viability of schools in the greater New Hanover district.  The end result of these discussions, for Wartburg Kirchdorf Schools, was to promote the amalgamation of the two campuses into one facility at the “High School” premises.

The amalgamation was promoted on the basis that to amalgamate would be cost effective, would concentrate community effort and most importantly would facilitate the continued effort to maintain the German culture and character of the School. There were a number of fruitful visits to the Provincial MEC for Education and Culture, Dr V Zulu and his staff during 1996 and finally authority was granted to amalgamate the two schools early in 1997.

The actual process of moving the Primary School was done very efficiently by a concentrated community effort.  Children at the old school were sent home for four days, from Tuesday to Friday and by Monday the job was done, with a few minor tasks outstanding.  Some minor building changes were effected. Sadly, Mr Göhring retired as the last principal of the Wartburg Kirchdorf Primary School in 1997.


In 2000 plans were put forward to establish a Pre-Primary at the School and after some slight modifications the Pre-Primary was opened for business in January 2001. The head teacher, Leigh Walker, Erika Freese and a teacher’s aid, Jodi Love, an ex pupil, took care of 34 children in their first year.

Life after the amalgamation was not easy, but it was effective!  The School now caters for children from Pre-Primary to Grade 12.

Mr Johannes left the School in 2000 to follow his passion to become a minister. He now pastors the Greytown Lutheran Church. Mr Johannes steered the School in the most difficult times most ably and his contribution will always be remembered with pride.

    
Mr G A Baxter was appointed Principal in 2001 and is the present incumbent.  Mr Baxter initiated the introduction of the 125 Celebration Gardens. His eye for design and his passion for plants has contributed to a most beautiful visual effect that welcomes everyone to our beautiful School.

Mr Baxter, together with loyal and dedicated staff members, has managed to maintain the strong work ethos that has kept Wartburg Kirchdorf School in the forefront of academic excellence in Natal. This fine achievement was recognised by the Department of Education in 2004 with the presentation of the 100% Matric Pass Achievement Award together with several other certificates acknowledging excellence in Biology, Geography, Afrikaans and Sustained Academic Excellence.

Conclusion

Wartburg Kirchdorf School offers quality, affordable education and has always endeavoured to promote excellence in a rounded education for all its learners. After 134 years the community can be proud of the wonderful impact this School has had on the scores of outstanding young men and women who have passed through this School and gone on to make a name for themselves on the sporting field and in business circles, nationally and internationally.

We are proud to be standing tall on the achievements of the past teachers and learners of this School who have left an indelible footprint in the corridors of time and we look forward to the challenges that lie ahead with confidence and enthusiasm.

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