Trafalgar High School (Cape Town)

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Trafalgar High School
Logo badge for Trafalgar High School in Cape Town.png
Birchington Road, District Six

South Africa
Coordinates33°56′00″S 18°25′41″E / 33.93333°S 18.42806°E / -33.93333; 18.42806Coordinates: 33°56′00″S 18°25′41″E / 33.93333°S 18.42806°E / -33.93333; 18.42806
MottoPer Angusta Ad Augusta ("Through Difficulty To Success")
Established1912 (1912)
FounderAbdullah Abdurahman
PrincipalNadeem Hendricks

Trafalgar High School is a secondary school in District Six of Cape Town in South Africa. It was the first school built in Cape Town for coloured and black students.[1] The school took a leading role in protesting against apartheid policies.[1][2] It celebrated its centenary in 2012 and is still running.[1]


Trafalgar High School was supported as a direct result of a damning criticism of the Cape School Board in the newspaper of the African Political Organization (APO) in August 1911. Investigations found that the board had created no benefit at all for students who were non-white.[3][4] The board was lobbied by Abdullah Abdurahman of the APO. As a result, this school gained Harold Cressy as head teacher in 1912.[5] Cressy was the first coloured person to gain a Bachelor of Arts degree in South Africa,[1][6] and the nearby Harold Cressy High School is now named after him. The school was initially known as the Trafalgar Second Class Public School,[5] and had five teachers and 60 students. The school was co-educational and in the first year girls were just in the majority.[4]

Harold Cressy – principal of Trafalgar Second Class Public School

Cressy was able to report a year later, in 1913, that a girl at the school had been the first coloured female student to pass the "School Higher". The girl was Abdullah Abdurahman's daughter, Rosie Waradea Abdurahman. The APO report on this success praised the girl, the principal and the school, but it gave no credit to the school board as the school was still poorly supplied.[3]

Cressy had frequently been unhealthy and early in March 1916 he got pneumonia. By this time the school had a new site and a new building was being constructed after the school board donated £3,000. Cressy had established the school and an association for teachers, but he died that August.[7]

South African politics affected the school's teaching staff. In 1957 Benjamin Kies who taught at the school was banned from teaching for life because he was leading the Teachers' League of South Africa. He had to also stand down as editor of the Leagues Educational Journal and that role was taken over by Helen Kies who was an alumnus of this school.[8] In 1964 Sedick Isaacs who was the mathematics and physics teacher at the school was sentenced to twelve years in Robben Island for sabotage.[9] He was given an extended sentence in 1969 for operating a radio and making a master key to the cells.[9]

The school in 2014

The school has frequently had more students than resources. It has also faced opposition. During the 1970s the community of District Six was moved and the plan was to move the school from its current location. On 11 February 1966, P. W. Botha declared that District Six was to be emptied to make way for white residents under the Group Areas Act and bulldozers moved in.[2][10] However the school felt strongly about its history and it, like Harold Cressy High School,[11] refused to be moved.[4][12] By 1982, 60,000 people had been moved out of the area and rehoused in the Cape Flats.[11] This meant that many students had to be transported in to fill the school and no student lives within a kilometre.[4] However the school still achieved high pass rates.[4]

In 1984 the authorities planned to close the school to non-white secondary students and they wanted to re-open it as a whites-only infant school. It was admitted that they planned to improve the school before white children would use it. The head at that time led the opposition to these plans.[13]

In 1985 the political unrest meant that many students did not receive the education they might expect and for that reason the school decided to get every student to repeat that year so that they would not be overly disadvantaged.[4]

More recently the school has had the time to make its own contributions. In 2006 the school became the athletes village when the Homeless World Cup came to Africa,[2] and in 2011 it was host to plans to fix District Six. A new plan to redevelop the land that had been depopulated in District Six was unveiled at the school. The plan attracted attention especially from people who used to live near the school as they were expecting compensation for their forced eviction.[14]

School song[edit]

The school song's chorus refers to the students as Trafalgarians:[15]

O Trafalgarians, be ye proud
Extol that thrice blessed name
And raise your adorations loud
Thus shall ye spread its fame

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "City School turns 100",, January 2012, retrieved August 2014.
  2. ^ a b c "Trafalgar High School becomes Homeless World Cup Village" Archived 12 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine, retrieved 11 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b History, school site, retrieved 11 August 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Trafalgar High School, Cape Town, marks 100 years", South African History Online, retrieved 11 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b Harold Cressey, SAHistory, retrieved 13 August 2014.
  6. ^ Harold Cressy,, retrieved 14 August 2014
  7. ^ Verwey (ed.), E. J. (1995). New Dictionary of South African Biography (1st ed.). Pretoria: HSRC Publishers. p. 55. ISBN 0796916489. Retrieved 14 August 2014.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ a b Helen Kies, SAHistory Online, retrieved 17 August 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Parker, Mushtak (18 September 2013). "Sedick Isaacs The unsung anti-apartheid hero". New African Magazine. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  10. ^ Pointer, Fritz H. (2001). A Passion to Liberate: La Guma's South Africa: Images of District Six. Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press. p. xi. ISBN 9780865438187. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Heritage Impact Assessment", Quahnita Samie and Constance Pansegrouw, 2014 for Harold Cressy Alumni Association, retrieved 15 August 2014.
  12. ^ a b Whitman, Daniel; Jaksa, Kari, eds. (2014). "Siraj Desai". Outsmarting Apartheid: An Oral History of South Africa's Cultural and Educational Exchange with the United States, 1960–1999. SUNY Press. p. 138. ISBN 9781438451213. Retrieved 16 August 2014.
  13. ^ 1984 history, school site, retrieved 11 August 2014.
  14. ^ Zara Nicholson, "District Six Excites Claimants", December 2011, IOL online, retrieved 13 August 2014.
  15. ^ School Song, School website, retrieved 14 August 2014.
  16. ^ "Zainunnisa "Cissie" Gool". South African History Online. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  17. ^ Namibian Bios, retrieved 13 August 2014.
  18. ^ Vera Gow Archived 13 August 2014 at the Wayback Machine,, retrieved August 2014.
  19. ^ Alex La Guma Obituary, retrieved 13 August 2014.
  20. ^ Hassan Howa, SA History Online, retrieved 19 August 2014.
  21. ^ Maya Jaggi, "The sound of freedom", The Guardian, 2001, retrieved 13 August 2014.
  22. ^ "Rahima Moosa". South African History Online. Retrieved 13 August 2014.
  23. ^ "Richard Moore Rive",, retrieved 13 August 2014.
  24. ^ Fatima Seedat, SAHistory, retrieved 13 August 2014.
  25. ^ "Reginald (Reggie) September". South African History Online. Retrieved 19 August 2014.