DID you know that Alexander Sinton High School in Crawford, Cape Town, was the first school Nelson Mandela visited on his release in 1992?
The school’s first principal, Franklin Joshua, studied with Mandela at the University of Fort Hare in the Eastern Cape. Mandela studied law at Fort Hare, essentially a black university, before moving to Wits University in Johannesburg.
Nelson Mandela was the first democratically elected president of South Africa in 1994.
Fort Hare provided the inspiration for the names of the inter-houses of Alexander Sinton’s athletics meetings. They were named after the student residences of the university: Beda (red), Iona (blue), Moffat (green) and Wesley (yellow).
The school’s first inter-house meeting, and the first of its kind at a Cape Town school, was introduced by Joshua and physical education master Dennis McKay in 1960. (Mackay was a physical training graduate from Wesley Training College.)
The inter-house meeting comprised of groups of boys and girls pupils between the ages of 14 to 18 (and sometimes older), together with the teaching staff who acted as athletics officials.
The inter-houses made up the competition for the inter-house athletics meeting. It was to be the forerunner of the process of eliminations of athletes for bigger and more challenging athletics meetings.
Eliminations were held on different days: sprints on one day, the field events on another, and the long distance races on the third day (although not all schools made use of three days – some used fewer, others slightly more).
In between, schools had triangular meetings as preparation for the inter-school proper meetings.
Many schools followed this process of sorting out the athletes before the next level of inter-school meetings.
Joshua would have been about 96 years old today.