A personal story and appeal by Patrick Dowling, former parent

In 1996 there was stony ground, spider gums, a big old pine tree, ten hopeful parents, their children, imagination, energy and a plan (much of it conceived in the fecund and adaptive mind of Lisa Phillips whose children Lucy and Paul now in their late twenties helped test out.)

By 1997, this had turned into a school with one high-up classroom, no office, no loos, no electricity, one tap, ten exhausted but glad parents, ten happy children, one new teacher, a big old pine tree with a swing on it, some rent to pay and a whole lot of new and hopeful plans.

This is how I remember the beginnings of Imhoff Waldorf school, that was still wondering about a name then, more than twenty years ago. And how happy Sandy and I were that we would not have to pick up a tearful Sarah aged seven, from “big school” in Sun Valley any more.

Work parties were a regular, seldom begrudged and often joyful feature of life as classrooms got built, trees planted, mulch spread, a soak-away dug and renewable energy experimented with. Candles were the preferred back up not only for St John’s festivals but many a meeting about the life of the school, its learning and teaching and adults and children taking it from phase to phase.

When it all became too much we thought, with crises (a huge fire that destroyed most of the classes, regular break-ins, pressure from the education department and uncertainty about the land) happening hard on one another, an older mentor from the College patiently reminded us that we were in the pioneering phase. It dawned on us that, with this philosophical outlook, a decade was not so long.

Now two decades and more later, Imhoff Waldorf is in another pioneering and metamorphizing phase. It has land of its own within 100 metres of its recently and sadly vacated site, higher up the slopes of Kleinslangkop ridge that abuts and overlooks a swathe of Table Mountain National park, its wetlands, coast and fynbos contours. While the vision of a high school has been put on hold for the time being, the kindergarten cluster and classes one to seven, numbering 185 children and 20 teachers in all, are already on the move – a six-week relocation of the original wooden cabin classes onto carefully placed platforms.  

I am contacting you because you were part of this evolving story, important characters in a cast of more than a thousand, or part of a supportive audience, and may want to contribute to the realisation of something conceived and spoken about in almost legendary terms when we all a lot younger. Though the school is now “secure” there is much to be done and it will take money and work (described by Khalil Gibran as love made visible – work, that is).

Thank you for reading this and please contact the school if you need any more detailed information: cot@imhoffwaldorf.org.