1. The early years of Greek education in Bloemfontein
Many Greek immigrants who settled in Bloemfontein soon realized their children’s need to learn the Greek language. Besides, as pointed out in seminar 2, many of them emigrated with the conviction that after a few years, they would return, and their children would grow up in the motherland. The years, however, passed, they started families, and the new generations grew up in an environment that did not encourage the use of the Greek language.
Before World War II, the “Bertolis School” in Johannesburg was the only feasible solution for a Bloemfontein Greek who wanted his/her child to study in a properly structured educational institution. Yet, that school was expensive and only a few children from Bloemfontein stayed for a year or so at its hostel.
Occasionally, two Greeks gave private Greek language lessons in Bloemfontein, namely Clara Roundy-Christoforou, and Dorothy Manidis, the wife of Georgios Manidis, who served for a decade as chairman of the Committee. Dorothy Trupos, as her maiden name was, returned with her family to Greece in 1939, and they were trapped there because of the war. What’s more, she was involved in the Resistance against the German occupation (1941-1944). At the end of World War II, she returned to Bloemfontein with sufficient knowledge of the Greek language to teach some children privately from time to time.
2. Hristos Tarnanis
Hristos Tarnanis, an emigrant from Asia Minor (1924), completed the third grade (equivalent to grade 9 today) at the “Anaksagoras School” of Izmir. Nevertheless, he was a cultured and perceptive person, who dedicated a large part of his life to the common benefit of the Greeks in Bloemfontein. Later, in 1955, he was the chairman of the first Committee. He soon realized that the youth was the future of Hellenism in the foreign country. “What I do, I do it for the youth”, he used to say. Pure Greek and lover of the Greek language, he got upset when he heard parents speaking English to their children.
Around 1943, Mr Tarnanis rented a small room somewhere in what is now the Sanlam Plaza, and putting in a few little tables and benches transformed it into a school. Only a few children and some university students attended that “school” to learn the basics of the Greek language. Yet, grandparents today, remember those days with nostalgia while others regret their lack of participation.
Unfortunately, the majority of the Greeks did not support that attempt, probably because of an indifferent attitude towards the aim of the project. Thus, the “school” closed after two years.
3. The priests that taught Greek
3.1 Father Agathaggelos
Around 1960, Father Agathaggelos, the priest of the orthodox church in Welkom, visited Bloemfontein and held Greek language classes in a classroom of the President Brand School (Musicon today). However, only three or four children got involved in these courses, and so this activity soon came to an end.
3. 2 Archimandrite Ierotheos Petrakis
Father Petrakis gave Greek lessons in the community hall during his stay in Bloemfontein. It was not an officially organized school, but many children learnt how to write and speak a little Greek.
As stated above, Father Petrakis was strict and a perfectionist. This attitude deterred children from going to his “school”. It appears that he also did not communicate well with the children. Yet, he kept the school functioning according to the Committee’s requirements, even though he received no remuneration.