Posted by Sigi Howes on the Simon van der Stel Heritage Foundation facebook page:
It was probably the biggest crowd ever at the unveiling of a Simon van der Stel Heritage Foundation Blue Plaque! In a moving ceremony last week, attended by 700 pupils, 23 teachers and about 10 other invited guests, the Blue Plaque bearing the name of Ashley Kriel (1966-1987) was unveiled at his old school.
Bonteheuwel High is one of 4 schools that received a Blue Plaque during 2018 as part of the Blue Plaque Schools Project - a collaboration between the Simon van der Stel Foundation and the Centre for Conservation Education. Schools apply in one of four categories and, if they're successful, receive a Blue Plaque endorsed by the Foundation. Bonteheuwel applied in the category 'Famous Past Pupils who Excelled Themselves', citing Ashley Kriel.
Kriel was a young activist in Bonteheuwel who fought for social justice and freedom in the 1980s. While at school, he was a good student, excelling in Maths and Science. He was intelligent, widely-read and displayed leadership skills at an early age. What few people know is that he also fought against gangsterism, recognising that it robbed young people of their future. He was a kind-hearted individual, who could relate to a wide variety of people. He was an accomplished public speaker, and used this to great effect to rally the masses. Naturally the authorities saw him as a persona non grata.
In 1987 the security police traced him to a safe house in Hazendal, Athlone, and killed him by shooting him in the back. He was not yet 21 years old - what a waste of human potential. In 1990 Nelson Mandela paid tribute to Ashley during his first speech after being released from prison.
At the recent unveiling ceremony, I was given the opportunity to explain how the Blue Plaque Schools Project worked. The Afrikaans poet, Willem Fransman, read a poem he had written: 'My naam is Ashley Kriel'. The Head Boy, Nehemiah Cassiem, urged his fellow students to emulate the example set by Ashley and to take their rightful place in society: "It's our time". The principal, Ms Nicola Pather, echoed the sentiment of the whole school community when she said: "Today we bring Ashley Kriel back to Bonteheuwel High". It is hard to describe the sense of pride, and the gratitude for the recognition of their heritage, that schools feel when they receive their Blue Plaques.