Central to the story of Collegiate Girls School was one of change, growth and progress. The school never emerged at its current shape, fully formed. Instead it was a process of renewal. To underscore this, was the first giant leap from a small school in a large house at No. 15 Western Road to bespoke buildings in Bird Street.
It will serve us well to reflect that what is now viewed as a bold audacious step might equally have been a misstep. That required perspicacity and foresight and not 20/20 hindsight.
Let us again join the school on its next profound step.
Main picture: The first Collegiate School in Bird Street surrounding by a white trellis fence in 1878
None of the early records have escaped the ravages of times. Fortunately for history, this bleak situation has been somewhat mitigated by the first pupils recalling the first years.
With the assistance of these reminiscences, one can obtain an intimate view of what it was like to be one of the initial batch of pupils 144 years ago in 1874.
In this blog, four founding pupils will share their experiences.
Main picture: Miss Virginia Lavinia Isitt, Headmistress from 1874 to 1886
By the 1870s the stark fact was that the girls in Port Elizabeth were receiving a second-rate education at the various private seminaries with their untrained and unqualified teachers. With the demand for quality education glaringly obvious, the residents called into question the lack of a sound establishment under a competent and qualified staff of cultured ladies.
The residents’ hopes were realised when on Friday 19th September 1873, a notice appeared in the local newspaper announcing the establishment of a girls’ school.
This would culminate in the birth of the prestigious girls’ school: Collegiate. Like all such endeavours, it would not emerge fully formed as it development would proceed through numerous iterations.
Main picture: No. 15 Western Road with its white front wall and white bay window, the original Collegiate School (looking up Whitlock Street).