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Centaurus; from grace to grass

by Debisa Cooper


With age comes wisdom but that may not always be entirely true and Centaurus High School has known what it is like to have graceful wisdom then lose it amid bad publicity and regain it in their 50 years of existence.
The school will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary, being the first English medium school in Namibia before Independence. There will be two events to celebrate this; the first one being a small ceremony this Wednesday (17th April) and the other in early September, a fundraising event. The second event will be held at the school premises with invited guest including the Deputy Minister of Education, Dr David Namwandi and former principals.
The celebration is to salute a group of business men who met on the 4th of May, 1959, to discuss what steps could be taken to improve the quality of high school education in the English language in South West Africa (now Namibia), at the instigation of Mr Henry Hugo, the Regional Manager for an oil company in Windhoek then.
Various possibilities were discussed including the relative number of English-speaking children attending boarding schools in South Africa that was then in a staggering state. On 18 November, 1959, the executive committee of South West Africa approved the establishment of an English Medium High School availing land for construction of the school..
More than 200 people on 17 April 1962  witnessed the official opening of Centaurus as the only English-speaking high school unlike the rest of the all-white Afrikaans-speaking schools then. .
However, in 1990, all schools in Namibia opened their doors for learners of all colours, races and creeds for the first time. Yet, before then, Centaurus only accepted about 25% of the non-white applicants due to poor command in English.
The principal, Mr Johann Weyhe says he has four more years to go as the principal of the school and promises that before he leaves, he will have restored the school former grace.
 “I just want to rebuild this school’s former glory and four years should be enough to do that, given that we already managed to come second in the last year’s Grade 12 exams in Khomas Region and we strive to get better,” he said, extending his invitation to whomever would like to attend the anniversary celebrations this Wednesday or help the school in any way.
He further urged the general public stop judging from outside, “We are willing to accept help from anyone in any way on what to do to get better.”
Silva Ndjiharine added that, “The school had a lot of bad publicity during that period but we overcame that by accepting more non-white learners; a move that was fostered by open-mindedness and the willingness to embrace change. And, we now enjoy the fruits of that bold move as for instance, last year we improved to 2nd position after St Paul’s in the Grade 12 results.”
They both added that besides the circumstances of learners and a poor parent-support system, they have still managed to rank at the top 10 in Namibia and they have a variety of learners in regard to cultures, races and nationalities.  
Amongst the school’s alumni is the Namibian jazz musician, Sharon van Rooi, “I agree that the school’s education quality has deteriorated from an outside perspective and what I have heard from learners who are currently there.
“Back then, we had good teacher-leaner involvement and interaction but now, it seems that that is no longer the case. Centaurus was once a great school that really excelled in quality education; a lot of prominent names are products of the school, which proves my point.”