Gr 5 Excursion

Fifty Union High School Grade 5s recently enjoyed a great reward outing to the farm Slingersfontein, as well as to the biggest inland water mass in the country, the Gariep Dam.

After departing from school early Monday morning, 28 October, the group first made a pitstop at the home of Barry and Suzette Norval, where the children played on the zipline, jumping castle, trampoline, swings and various other play equipment.

After all their pent-up energy had been spent, they journeyed forth to Slingersfontein.  Upon arrival at the farm, the group were first taught how a windmill works and is maintained, after which Mr Anthony Murray spoke to the learners about the Boer War as well as the Slingersfontein farm’s pivotal role in it and then proceeded to show the children where the British had made camp during that time.

The group then hiked to the area where New Zealand soldiers had laid down their lives and viewed the monument erected in their honour.  Mr Murray then shared his collection of war artefacts, explaining to the children in detail what each item was.  Yaseen Kazi was then given the exciting opportunity to ignite a small quantity of gunpowder.

The learners loved hearing about the war and found it most interesting.  They also perused the farm’s collection of animal skulls and tried to identify which animals they’d been.

The ladies of the farm prepared a tasty lunch of mince and vetkoek and juice for all the hungry youths, after which the group continued their journey to the Gariep Dam’s Forever Resort.  Upon arrival at the campsite, gale force winds made the pitching of the tents quite difficult, but, with the help of kind and caring parents, the job got done with all the kids being taught a valuable lesson about perseverance!

When camp was established, all the kids enjoyed free play time of their choice.  The night was cold and windy, but in the morning everyone experienced a genuine appreciation for their warm and comfortable beds and homes.  Having survived the harsh conditions, the learners are definitely stronger for the experience.

A tour where the learners got to explore some of the13km of passages and halls within the Gariep Dam’s wall, was very interesting and informative. The children were amazed to learn that it took six years, from 1966 and 1972, to construct the dam.

The excursion concluded with lunch at the Colesberg Wimpy.  Needless to say, the busses were much quieter on the return trip, as most children used the time to catch up on lost sleep.

Union extends its thanks to Zanel and Anthony Murray, as well as Barry and Suzette Norval, for their wonderful hospitality and assistance. The school also extends its thanks to the Forever Resort as well as to the officials from the Department of Water and Sanitation for their excellent service while touring the wall.

Social Sciences Excursion

Based on their Social Sciences report marks, eight boys and six girls were invited to attend Union’s annual Grade 7 Social Sciences excursion held on Friday and Saturday, 19 and 20 October.

After arriving at Westbrook on Saturday, the group took a short hike to a huge poplar forest on Onbedacht farm, where they were pleased to see that the river was flowing, even though the area is experiencing the worst drought in 100 years.

The learners managed to catch a few crabs that they released again. (It was good to see that there was a lot of life present in the river.)

After supper, the learners headed to Langfontein for a late night dip in a saltwater pool.

A warm cup of hot Milo was the perfect way to end off the evening.

After breakfast the next day, the group headed to De Vrede Farms where Mr John Biggs showed them around.

He spoke to them about the challenges farmers are facing in the drought and suggested ways in which farmers can adapt to farming in areas with low rainfall.

Mr Biggs also informed the learners about the Pendoring bush which acts as a natural nursery for new trees, such as the Shepherd’s Tree.

The group then investigated the central pivot as a way of irrigation and discussed the effect it has on the water table.

Union extends its thanks to everyone who made this excursion possible – it was very educational and all the learners had a great time.

UHS Leaders 2020

It is with great pleasure that Union High School announces the 2019/20 Head Prefects.

This is an outstandingly capable, confident and humble team of leaders from within our new prefect body (as announced last month).

The Head Prefects are:

May they have the conviction and wisdom to lead the school to new heights!


A – 10 Dinner

Celebrating 12 years of togetherness

In 2008, a group of 32 Grade 1s started their school careers at Union Preparatory School.

For the following twelve years – as they went from prep school, to middle school, to high school – they learned together, laughed together, played sport together and had a lot of fun together, sharing life’s ups and downs as they went along

To celebrate this memorable 12-year journey, the UPS Grade 4 class hosted the annual A to 10 Dinner on Thursday evening, 10 October.

The A to 10 Dinner, held especially in honour of learners who have spent their entire school careers at Union, is one of the great traditions at Union, and always a very special occasion.

To start the evening, the Grade 4 learners welcomed the matrics and their parents and escorted them into the UPS Dome, after which all were entertained with song and dance, with the main event certainly being the different versions of the dozi-do dance.

As always, the A to 10 Dinner was filled with fun, lots of laughter and to end the evening, a beautifully prepared dinner in the Tony Burrell Union.

Here are the 2019 matrics who got to attend it along with their Old Unionite parents: (back) Peter Watermeyer, Sharon Shell, Kevin Watermeyer, Christine Harris, Helen Harris, Caerwyn Spence, Trenley Spence, Chinelle Marais, Beaver Hobson, Ryan Hobson, (front) Gary Shell and Donné Marais.

This lovely photo (below) of Union’s 2019 A – 10 Matrics standing in front of Union Preparatory School where their school careers began 12 years ago, was taken prior to the recent A – 10 Dinner.

They are: Rosslyn Sparks, Christine Harris, Micela Loock, Jenna Mcnaughton, Sabrina Potgieter, Donné Marais, Megan Doyle, Kirsten King, Lauren Carelse, Sisipho Swartz, Henzé Jaftha, Thembela George, Chelsea Theron, Zikhona Mbaile, Kiah Hoffman, Jada Smith, Sasha Bosch, Kay Koeberg, Ebben Johnston, Gary Shell, Cleathon Koeberg, Caerwyn Spence, Matteo Mahona, Bongi Johnson, Keanu de Klerk, Ryan Hobson, Ethan Gedult, Peter Watermeyer, Nöa Cilliers, Bladen Jacobs, Gregon Jenneke and Sergio Macpherson.

View more photographs on our Facebook page:

Double Take

You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re seeing double at Union High School.

That’s because the school is home to nine sets of twins this year!

Anyone who knows a set of twins, knows that they are alike in many ways, but, although there is much that they may share, at Union we just love developing their many individual talents and discovering how unique they truly are!

Seen here are: (back) Similo and Siyolo Somgqeza, Ntombazana and Ndodana Speelman, (middle) Chloe and Cullan Erasmus, Karl and David Venter and Kenza and Alex Neill, (front) Ashton and Ashwon Dawids, Tessa and Tammy James, Jenna and Luke McNaughton and JP and PJ van der Merwe.

Grade 10 Odyssey

An Odyssey of self-reflection and adventure

Each year, Union’s Grade 10s spend months anticipating the Odyssey which takes them on a physical, soul searching journey down the Gats River Canyon, starting in Nieu-Bethesda and ending in Graaff-Reinet five days later.

The aim of the exercise is that everyone carries all that they need to be self-sufficient and to survive this time in the wilderness.

Kevin and Lisa Watermeyer spent months planning the smooth execution of the adventure, but were unfortunately unable to be a part of the 5-day journey due to circumstances beyond their control.

Union is eternally grateful to Kevin, Lisa and the team of parents who worked so hard to make logistics and cooking run so smoothly behind the scenes.

This year, Brian Kenmuir, Flippie Loock, Bronwen, David and Rebecca Langmead, Elrich Jantjies, Hanli and Rowan Rose-Innes, Nibs Price, Cathy Pringle and Headmaster Mr William Pringle accompanied the learners on all or some of the trail, ensuring the safety and well-being of the hikers.

This year’s Odyssey was a different one, in that the Karoo is in the throes of a drought and the rivers are nearly dry with no potable water en route at all.

Water was driven in to the campsites by means of 70 five litre containers – one for each child, which would last 24 hours.

This in itself was an excellent exercise in the value of water and how precious each drop can be. It was interesting to watch the Grade 10s nurturing their marked, 5-litre containers, and it was impressive that they managed to survive each day with this scant amount – this included cooking, washing and all drinking water!

Fifty-eight slightly nervous Grade 10s set out from the Nieu-Bethesda Sports Club on Sunday 15 September.

Packs had been inspected and weighed beforehand, so this year everyone’s packs were of an acceptable weight. The Development Trust has provided funds each year and Union now has enough packs and tents to accommodate those who don’t have their own.

This year, 15 braai bread pans were also purchased, all which add to the smooth running of the journey. The first 5 kilometres out of the village is a long slog on a district road. During this time, packs were adjusted and by midday everyone caught up at a decent sized (albeit slightly slimy) swimming hole before heading into the canyon at Aasvoëlkrans.

Here the orange cliffs, poplar glades and slow moving river provided incredible vistas and after lunch and a good swim everyone was energised for the final push to the campsite at Riverdene.

It was uncanny to discover that the place where we set up camp this year had been a huge pool in the river last year! But this provided a perfect beach and a gorgeous tent-town was set up before long with a well-managed fire place in a safe spot.

Blisters were tended to, and the group settled into an evening of real conversation, card games and getting to know each other without the distraction of screens and cellphones which were banned. David Langmead gave the group a fire-making lesson and after a hearty meal sleep came easily!

The next day, drama therapist Paula Kingwill engaged the group in a workshop during which the Grade 10s delved into some soul searching about how their environment adapts to change.

This gave everyone the opportunity to get to know each other on a deeper level, and some of the groups produced extremely original and creative ideas which they acted out to their peers.

The group also delved into the role that their ancestors played in their lives and realised how similar – and how different they are on various levels. After a quick pack up, the hike to Schoonberg began.

Some got a little lost (and found) on the way, the previous day’s blisters let themselves known, and packs weighed heavily on some shoulders.

For those at the back, the day was long and painful, and everyone was grateful to eventually see that the pools at camp 2 still had some water in them, providing delicious relief for aching feet and bodies!

Those who found the hike easy, got wind of a secret pool up one of the tributaries and an enthusiastic group headed upriver to see if it had water. The intrepid explorers came back exuberant a few hours later, reporting of the watery beauty that they had found! That afternoon Bronwen and David Langmead presented an outdoor cooking demonstration and before long everyone set out to make their own delicious bread and roast chicken which was thoroughly enjoyed as the moon rose later!

With tummies full, David called the group together and explained the art of stillness and living in the moment. The Grade 10s were asked to meet before sunrise the following day, when they would spend some hours in ‘Solitude’.

Hardly anyone needed waking at 04:30 the next morning… in beautiful, quiet consciousness, the Grade 10s settled around the fire with their sleeping bags, water, and precious letters from loved ones. The adults led them out quietly into the dawn and positioned them individually among the rocks, under bushes and next to pools, where they spent 5 hours in total silence and solitude.

During this time they wrote a private letter to themselves which will be kept in the school safe to be opened at their Valedictory in 2021. The privilege of this time of silent reflection is one which few in the world are blessed with.

On return, someone commented on the quiet, contemplative mood at camp and everyone packed up, ready for the short hike to the waterfall.

After the pools at Schoonberg, the lack of water became evident. The huge pool at the base of the waterfall was reduced in size and not really even fit for swimming. It was decided to camp in the riverbed at the top of the waterfall, and it was here that Mr and Mrs Pringle joined the Grade 10s.

There was talk about the ‘torturous’ day of hiking that lay ahead, and more than a little trepidation filled the air as delicious mugs of soup and roosterkoek were served for supper. The organisers are extremely grateful to land custodians Pierre Fourie and Elizna Smith Fourie, Patti Coetzee, Julian Murray, Johan Dercksen, Sarah Cromhout, Johan Bouwer and the Herding Academy, without whom, the Odyssey would not be possible.

The trackers from the Herding Academy met everyone down the valley at 08:00, ready to guide them along the 14km hike, part of which included 7km of pure, unrelenting uphill.

It is this day of hardship which tests the endurance and tenacity of each and every Grade 10. There are times when giving up is simply not an option, no matter how difficult the going may be.

While endurance hiking is easier for those who are naturally fit, massive admiration went out to those who did not find it easy, yet absolutely refused to give up at all. Mr Pringle described the day’s hike as ‘brutal’ and expressed his real admiration to the Grade 10s for completing this gruelling day, having experienced it himself.

Summiting the neck over which lay the oasis of St Olives farm, was a major life accomplishment for many. Few had ever experienced anything that physically challenging in their lives. Everyone was grateful for the green grass, swimming dam and shady pear trees which made the campsite seem like a hotel after the untamed wilderness they had experienced!

Mr Pringle addressed the Grade 10s later in the evening, speaking to them of the meaning of Homer’s poem, “The Odyssey” in which Ulysses’ 10 year epic journey is described. He likened the Grade 10s personal journeys to the words from the poem, Ulysses, by Tennyson when he says:
“Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

The final day dawned bright and early, and while everyone appeared excited that home was close by, most expressed sadness that their time together was over. As a surprise, all packs were loaded into trailers and, free of the weight, the Grade 10s set off quickly on the 11km final stretch down to Graaff-Reinet.

As they reached the top of Ouberg, David Langmead called everyone together for the last time, asking them to leave any troubles, worries, baggage and pain at the top of the pass. As has become tradition, the Grade 10s wrote that which they wanted to metaphorically leave behind in the Karoo dust, before scratching it out and heading off, lighter than before, towards Union.

At school, a heroes’ welcome awaited them as they walked through a tunnel of Unionites – some who had gone through what they had, and some who anticipate the Odyssey in the future.

Tears of joy, accomplishment and pride flowed as parents and friends welcomed their now changed young people, who, for a good part of a week had accomplished walking 65km from Nieu-Bethesda to Graaff-Reinet and while doing so, had learned so much more about who they are.


Prefect Camp

The Union High School Prefect body of 2019 / 2020 went on their prefect camp to Skietfontein Lapa, near Somerser East, from 4 to 6 October.

A muddy obstacle course, paintball shooting and many other teamwork activities had the prefects out of their comfort zones and facing their fears. It gave them time to bond as a team and trust each other in all they do.

Good leadership, punctuality and motivation were shown as key success factors of a team. At the end of the camp, the prefects voted for the heads of the school, whom will be announced at the Senior prize-giving on 11 October.

Valedictory 2019

Friday, 5 October, was an extra special day for the matrics, their parents, special guests and Union’s staff, as all came together for the Class of 2019’s Valedictory Ceremony.

Once everyone had gathered in the school hall, Headmaster Mr William Pringle extended a warm welcome to all, after which Deputy Headboy Khanya Butshingi and Deputy Headgirl Zintle Maki led the devotion.

In response to the Headmaster’s address, Head Prefects Peter Watermeyer and Jenna McNaughton spoke on behalf of the class, delivering touching farewell messages.

The Class of 2019 then presented a song, ‘I was here’ by Beyoncé and a slideshow of their years at the school to those gathered.

The ceremony ended with the Grade 12s leading out and continuing a tradition which started last year, where each learner rings the Centenary Bell.

The matrics then enjoyed tea in the Tony Burrell Union, joined by their parents and the school’s staff, after which they took leave of the school by walking through a guard of honour, created by the rest of the school’s learners.

We wish our 2019 matrics all the best as they prepare for their final exams!

View photographs in the “Farewell, Matrics” folder on our FaceBook page.




Old Unionites For Life!

On Tuesday evening, 1 October, Union High School’s Grade 12 class of 2019 were welcomed into a new chapter of their Union story as they were inducted into the Old Unionites Association (OUA).

Held at the Tony Burrell Union, this annual event saw all the matrics gathered together for what might most-likely be one of the very last times they will be spending time together as a class.

The Grade 12s were welcomed by Headmaster Mr William Pringle, after which they were addressed by guest speaker Mr Kevin Watermeyer, an OUA committee member and father of this year’s Headboy, Peter Watermeyer.

Mr Watermeyer shared with the learners some very special words of wisdom, encouraging them to always return to their Alma Mater and to remember the values instilled in them during their years at Union High School.

The evening culminated in each Grade 12 learner receiving a OUA lifetime membership card and a small gift, where after they were all treated to a tasty dinner.