THREE members of the Queen’s College staff with combined service of more than 90 years will retire when this term ends.
David Ningiza started work in March 1970 at Athlone House as a gardener, but in his almost 47 years he has helped out in many ways, including cleaning inside the hostel and babysitting the children of housemasters.
When he started, Ron and Dee Wiggett were the house parents and he remembers Ron giving errant boys a whack as caning was allowed inthose days.
“Mrs Wiggett and I used to work very hard together, especially at reunion, and I remember going round to churches and other schools to borrow cups before reunion.”
Colin and Pauline Winchester followed and then Dirk and Nora Marais, whose daughter, Marguerite, swallowed a fishing sinker (it reappeared in her nappy). David enjoyed entertaining the little girl when her mother went out and she would help him in the garden while he showed her the birds.
They became such friends that she later did not want to go out with her mother and preferred to stay with David.
The Jardine, Fennell and Jones families followed, but none of them stayed very long, until Eldred and Petro Butler came “and I’ll miss them a lot – Mrs Butler gives me medicine when I need it.”
David clearly remembers the heavy snowstorm in 1970, when he had to push a hand cart filled with vegetables from the market back to Bisset Hall – and in those days there were nearly 400 boarders.
“I was nearly up to my knees in snow,” he says.
He remembers the old school being demolished and the new one built and says the big trees between Athlone and the White House were then just a little hedge.
Over the years he has worked mostly in the garden at Athlone and the front of the Memorial Hall, but has filled in anywhere that he was needed, including playing cricket with the boys: “I took two wickets!” he says proudly.
Now 63, David plans to retire at his home in Mlungisi, where he will cultivate his own vegetables: “But I will miss the school a lot.”
Cleaner Rhoda Ndlebe started work at Queen’s in 1993, relieving for someone who was on maternity leave, but later became permanent. She cleans the school, the old school, the offices and makes tea.
She fondly remembers Niel Crawford, who ‘always chatted and made jokes” and Immanuel Landman always had a cheery “Molo magogo” and says headmaster Chris Harker was “very strict and always checking”.
“I have been very happy here and will never forget how Jill Haxton would pull her hair when we were very busy – like at reunion or the 150th,” she recalls.
Rhoda, now 60, plans to take better care of her health in her retirement and hopes to plant flowers in her little garden in Mlungisi.
Patricia Soka also began on a temporary basis at the headmaster’s residence and enjoyed working there.
“I was nanny to Jamey Harker, but the three boys were not naughty,” she recalls.
She later became a full-time cleaner, sometimes helping at the hostels, the library, cooking at Bisset and doing ironing.
When the Harkers retired she worked for the Lovatt family for their short sojourn and then the Grants with their two little boys, who “are not naughty either”.
Patricia is 65 now and plans to stay at her home in Ezibeleni where she is going to rest, but only after she has done the cleaning, cooking and gardening.