Armoria academica

CHINESE HIGH SCHOOL, Morningside, Port Elizabeth

Afrikaanse blasoen

Chinese High

Chinese High School, as it existed from 1973 to ’97, was an amalgamation of two separate schools for the Chinese community, and was the culmination of a saga involving four Chinese community schools in Port Elizabeth.

For many years this co-educational institution was the only State-run school for Chinese pupils in the country. Its arms do not appear to have been registered, since the State Herald would in all likelihood have disallowed the lettering on the pall (the Y-shaped red area). They may be blazoned:

Arms: Azure, a pall inverted gules fimbriated or and inscribed with text letters argent: C (in chief), H (on the dexter arm) and S (on the sinister arm); between, in chief, a pair of poppy blossoms argent fimbriated gules and inscribed with Chinese characters azure representing patriotism and courage (dexter) and faith and loyalty (sinister); and in base a sun argent composed of a plate fimbriated azure and surrounded by 12 triangles argent.

Motto: Fides et virtus.

About the arms:
It appears as if the demi-border and the fimbriation (the narrow edging) around the pall originated as a badge-maker’s convenience, although by heraldic convention red and blue clearly cannot lie side by side.

However, the red fimbriation on the poppy blossoms is a violation of heraldry’s tincture rule, since red and blue may not stand in contrast with each other, whereas blue and argent (silver or white) do provide adequate contrast.

Much of the symbolism in these arms is derived from the flag of the Republic of China. The blue symbolises the sky and represents loftiness and greatness. The white sun indicates brightness. The two combine to mean the the greatness of character and the intelligence of the Chinese people, as well as symbolising equality and freedom.

Poppy blossoms play an important part in Chinese symbolism.

Crimson represents universal love and symbolises the spirit of sacrifice of the martyrs of China’s revolution of the years 1911-28, as well as the cosmopolitanism of the Chinese.

The 12 pointed angles of the sun’s rays (which I have blazoned as triangles) represent the 12 hours of the day and the 12 months of the year, so representing the spirit of unceasing progress and devotion to school and country. A plate is a disc or roundel argent.

The Latin motto, meaning “Faith and courage”, is a translation of the Chinese inscriptions on the poppy blossoms.

About the school:
The school’s history goes back to 1918, when 16 Chinese children began attending classes in a room attached to St Mark’s Anglican mission in North End, Port Elizabeth.

Later that year the school moved to rooms in the Moi Yean Association building in Queen Street (later called Main Street and now Govan Mbeki Avenue), but pupils continued to be taught by the nuns of the mission, members of the Community of the Resurrection. By 1921, enrolment in the school, now called the Chinese Mission School, had risen to 33. Pupils’ ages ranged from 4 to 14, but also included two young wives whose husbands had sent them to learn English.

It was customary for the more fortunate Chinese boys to be sent to China to complete their education, but this happened less often after a teacher of Mandarin was installed at the school. The adoption of Mandarin (also called the national language of China) was a compromise, as the Port Elizabeth Chinese community largely comprised speakers of two Chinese dialects, or languages, Cantonese and Moi Yeanese.

The Moi Yean people have lived in the Meixian (Moi Yean) district of the north of Kwangtung (or Canton) province for centuries, but originate from the northern provinces of China and form a distinct linguistic community from the Cantonese. The Moi Yeanese are also called Hakka, but this is now generally regarded as a derogatory term.

Port Elizabeth’s Chinese population is now smaller than that of Johannesburg, but it is still proportionally the largest in any population centre in South Africa.

Chinese people settled more easily in the Cape Colony and Natal during the 19th century because of restrictions on them in the Boer republics, but even in these British colonies there were restrictions on them which became more severe in the Union of South Africa.

Because of tensions over religion in the Chinese community, the nuns of St Mark’s ceased to staff the school in 1933, and it now became the Chinese Primary School, under complete control of the Moi Yean Association.

However, further tensions in the community led to a rival school’s being started in 1939 by the Eastern Province Chinese Association, at the EPCA building in Evatt Street. (The EPCA was an umbrella body for both Chinese communities in Port Elizabeth, but its premises were also used as a social club by the Cantonese section.)

Property was purchased alongside Cape Road (then the national road to Cape Town) on the farm Nooitgedacht in the area that later became known as Kabega Park, and the school moved there in 1942. Nearly half the school’s pupils were boarders, mostly from the Eastern Cape, but some from as far away as the Transvaal. However, this school operated only until 1948.

South Africa’s Chinese community came under fresh pressure, beginning in 1948 when Dr D F Malan’s National Party came to power, and especially from 1950 when the Group Areas Act was passed, providing for racially separate residential areas. Hand in hand with this Act was the Community Development Act.

Four group areas were proclaimed for Chinese – the others were in Uitenhage, Kimberley and Pretoria – but only the one in Port Elizabeth, in the vicinity of the school in Cape Road, was developed following its proclamation in May 1961.

It was unusual in that it was entirely a residential group area: residents were not required to move their businesses there, as was required by the National Party government for people of other racial groups in their respective group areas.

The group area was eventually deproclaimed on 5 July 1984.

In 1949 Roman Catholic members of the Chinese community requested a school of their own after three girls had been withdrawn from St Dominic’s Priory school in the municipality of Walmer because of complaints from white parents.

The Chinese Educational Institute (later called Assumption Chinese College) was opened in Schauderville in 1950 with eight pupils. It reached a peak of 120 pupils in 1956. Eventually, following the departure of many Chinese residents from Schauderville and areas nearby because of Group Areas Act pressure, the college closed in 1970.

Also in 1950 the Moi Yean Association handed the (former Queen Street) Chinese Primary School over to the EPCA, which turned back to the Anglican Church for support. (During the 1950s Queen Street became part of Main Street, which in turn in 1995 was renamed [together with further extensions] Govan Mbeki Avenue.) The following year, when the enrolment was 200, the Cape Education Department recognised it as an Anglican mission school and took responsibility for the teachers’ salaries.

Also in 1951 the EPCA started a high school in Kabega Park, on the premises of the earlier breakaway primary school. In ’57 its enrolment was about 90 pupils. Talks over a possible amalgamation of the Chinese High School with Assumption College came to nothing, partly because of disagreements over staffing and religious affiliation.

In 1958 Chinese High School was taken over by the Cape provincial department. However, on taking control the Provincial Administration also removed the Chinese principal and appointed a white man in his place. Special permission was, however, given for two teachers to be sent from the Republic of China (on Taiwan) to teach Mandarin.

In 1973 the high and primary schools were merged (with the name Chinese High School being retained) and moved to new premises on a site in a part of the Chinese group area that actually falls into the township of Morningside, which had been laid out on the Parson’s Vlei glebe.

The majority of Port Elizabeth’s Chinese community moved to the group area. By 1976, only 71 families out of the 1 400 Chinese residents in the city had not moved.

However, because of difficulties encountered in selling properties in the group area, the Chinese community began requesting the Government to deproclaim it as a group area. Even before the deproclamation in 1984, non-Chinese residents had begun moving into the area.

The introduction of Model C schools in 1991 resulted in the school governing body’s deciding to open admission to pupils of other races. For more information on this option, see here.

By 1997 the Chinese pupils at the school no longer formed a majority, and the governing body applied to the Eastern Cape Education Department for permission to change the school’s name in recognition of this fact. Permission was granted on 7 January 1998 and the school became Morningside High School.

Afrikaanse blasoen:
Die wapen kan in Afrikaans so geblasoeneer word:

Wapen: In blou, ’n omgekeerde gaffel in goud omlyn en met drie silwer teksletters belaai: C (bo), H (links) en S (regs) tussen, bo, ’n paar papawerbloeisels in silwer, rooi omlyn en met blou Sjinese karakters belaai wat aan die regterkant patriotisme en durf simboliseer en aan die linkerkant geloof en trou; en onder ’n silwer son bestaande uit ’n silwer penning, blou omlyn en omring deur 12 silwer driehoeke.

Leuse: Fides et virtus.


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  • Sources: Colour, Confusion and Concessions, by Melanie Yap and Dianne Leong Man, and other information provided by the school. Colours of arms adjusted using MS Picture It!

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    Comments, queries: Mike Oettle

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