OVER the past 27 years Principal Erik Wright of Kenwyn Primary has witnessed many changes on the educational front. Now the time has come for the 65-year-old principal to put down his chalk and step away from the blackboard.
Wright started his teaching career in 1970 and came to Kenwyn Primary as the vice principal in 1985. “I taught at Sea Point Boys High, Simon’s Town High school and Bosmans Dam before I came to Kenwyn Primary. Believe me I wouldn’t be leaving if I didn’t have to, but unfortunately government policy won’t allow me to stay,” Wright says.
Wright celebrated his 65th birthday on Saturday 14 April and feels that he still has a lot of fire left inside of him. However at 65, men are expected to take the package if they are still working. “I don’t understand how the different systems work. As a teacher you are expected to retire at a certain age but if you are a politician you can work till whichever age. They got it good,” Wright says.
Even though not leaving his school career by choice, Wright is not too upset. As a grandfather of kids between one and eight years, he would love to spend time with his family. “You know, at the end of the day you are where you’re meant to be. God’s timing is perfect. I have a daughter and son in-law, both in jobs that take them away a lot. Now that I have more time on my hands I’ll be able to be a full-time grandpa,” says Wright proudly.
When asked about the highlights of his 25-year career at Kenwyn Primary, Wright points out that it’s in fact “27 and a quarter years to be exact.”
“A lot has happened during my time at this school and I have to say I feel greatly blessed. One of my proudest moments was changing the school from a white school to an open school. In 1990 we had approximately 190 students. When we opened up in 1991, the school started growing again and today we have 564 pupils. I feel proud to have been a part of that change,” says Wright, beaming with pride.
Wright also mentions other proud moments such as an ex-student by the name of Charl Willowby who played cricket for South Africa in an Indian tour a few years ago.
Acting Deputy Principal Wendy Scurr describes Wright as a man devoted to children. “I have always admired Mr Wright’s open door policy. His door was always open to anyone in need of his help. He never threw his weight around. You always felt that he was one of the staff. Most importantly, I have never seen a man more dedicated to children and at the age of 65 that is rare,” says an admiring Scurr.
Moving about comfortably in the office which he has occupied for the last 16 years, Wright points to a wall filled with pictures of his family, along with students of the school. “I consider these kids as my family. When parents come into my office with grievances, I would compare their kids’ problems with my own kids’ problems. It not only puts the parents at ease but it also makes you easier to talk to,” says an insightful Wright.
When discussing future prospects Wright says that initially he will not be working. He intends to assist his wife of 36 years with her daycare but says he will still be available to stand in when teachers are ill or if his assistance is needed in any way. “When I look back on all I’ve accomplished in these years I think I can say, without bragging, that I’ve done an excellent job,” says Wright, smiling.