HISTORY OF OUR SCHOOL AND INVOLVEMENT OF THE GRAAFF FAMILY:
In January 1871 Mr DS Botha (later Dutch Reformed minister) started a school in Villiersdorp with 17 learners at the Dutch Reformed Church. At the end of 1871 the school moved to the ‘Oude Huis’. This is where the famous Sir Pieter De Villiers Graaff received his first formal education. On April 1st 1873, Mr Botha became principal of the new ‘Third Class Undenominational School’, a government school. This school later became De Villiers Graaff High School. Mr Botha raised funds to have the small school and hostel, Pomona, built next to the church. The school grew from strength to strength over the following years under different principals, and Sir David De Villiers Graaff donated the required funds to have a new school built, as he opposed the idea of just adding more and more classes to the existing school. It is also thanks to the vision that Ds EG Malherbe had for the school and the community that convinced Sir David De Villiers Graaff to donate such a substantial amount to have the new school built.
Sir David De Villiers Graaff and Ds Malherbe negotiated with the Department of Education to build a quality school. He also continuously donated funds for bursaries and other gifts to the school, which was under the leadership of Mr HC de Wet at the time. The corner-stone of the new school, the De Villiers Graaff Instituut, was laid on 7th May, 1907 by Jan Hendrik Hofmeyer (Onze Jan). Another important attendant included Mr JAC Graaff. Mr JH Pienaar became the first principal in 1906, and the school consisted of two main buildings: the school building and Graaffsaal.
In 1908 Mr AL Lambrechts followed in the footsteps of Mr Pienaar. Under his strict leadership the school progressed from a second class school to a first class school. In 1914 it was promoted to a high school as well. In 1911 Malherbehuis was inaugurated. The science building was completed in the same year, and the swimming pool (also a gift from Sir David) was opened in 1914. In 1919 there were 272 learners in the school.
Since 1907 the only bursary funds available were £373.12 per year, received from Sir David. In 1927, he donated £3000.00 per year until it reached the total of £100 000. This funding ended in 1961. These funds resulted in the increase of learner numbers, and subsequently the need for more hostel buildings. Other members of the Graaff family also contributed generously, such as Senator Jan Graaff (R64 000) and Dr Bertie Graaff (R40 000).
Mr AM de Villiers, who was principal from 1920-1951, was famous for his inspirational words: “Aim high! To aim low is a crime!” In 1928 the girls’ hostel, Spes Bona, was opened, and in 1941 the boys’ hostel Huis De Villiers. This was later replaced by Huis Du Raan. Theresa hostel was completed in 1970. This was named after the wife of Mr AM de Villiers as a tribute to her. Mr de Villiers was succeeded by Mr DM de Jager, who made a huge contribution by upgrading the school in many areas, in conjunction with his board of governors and staff.
In 1947 Laerskool De Villiers Graaff was established. During the centenary year of 1972, the new sports fields and pavillion were inaugurated. A plaque was unveiled by the Administrator of the Cape Province. In 1983 certain extensions were built, such as seven new classrooms, a laboratory and a school hall.
From the school’s history and it’s ‘bragroom’, it is evident that there have been many great academic, sport and other achievements through the years. This encourages our present learners, and inspires them to achieve exceptionally, so that they can become valuable contributors to society.
After the passing of Sir David Graaff in 1931, the thought was to erect a monument or plaque at the school in his memory. The Graaff family were consulted in this regard, but their response was that the school itself should be a living monument to Sir David.
The school has since had various principals over the years. As newly appointed principal, it was sad, but an absolute honour, to attend the funeral of the late Sir David de Villiers Graaff, who was the third Baronet (1940 – 2015), with a colleague and some learners to represent our school. He was a remarkable man who played a significant role in society. He also kindly funded the new cricket pitch on our sportsfield in 2014.