The truce in May 1902 marked a new struggle. According to proclamations, all public school commissions as well as school properties were united in favor of the Milner reign. The public school in Heidelberg was founded by magistrate FK Maré on the condition that the “Hollandsche” language would be the medium of teaching. The school changed overnight to a “fee-paying school” with English as the medium of teaching.
This scenario sketched a bleak and miserable outlook on Heidelberg. The result of the war was poverty, burnt down farms, and the heritage of war orphans who needed education. The sudden change to a public school with English as the medium of teaching was strange and a historic parent’s meeting was held in the basement of the Klipkerk on 24 July 1903. At this meeting, Rev. AJ Louw, Mr. FJ Bezuidenhout, Dr. O’Reily, and Mr. TA Dönges decided to start a free Christian National School.
To establish Christian characteristics in the school, three reverends were part of the first commission, namely Rev. AJ Louw (chairperson), Rev. J. van Belkum and Rev. WJ de Klerk (grandfather of WF de Klerk). The basement, vestry, and some rooms of the Klipkerk, and the Van Belkum church hall were initially used as classrooms.
The school quickly grew in numbers and the Bezuidenhouts from De Rust farm bought a piece of land which was given to the church to build Laer Volkskool. On 27 October 1906, the cornerstone of Laer Volkskool was laid by Schalk Burger, once the vice-president of the ZAR. The importance of this institution was emphasized by the presence of Prof. JI Marais from Stellenbosch and Prof J Lion-Cachet from Potchefstroom at the inauguration on 11 January 1907.
When the Transvaal obtained its responsible management, Genl. Smuts endeavoured to keep to a system where parents had the most authority in the Christian National Teaching institution. Fortunately Rev. AJ Louw who started his career in Riebeeck West had a good relationship with one of his church members, Jan Smuts.
As part of the liberation route, it is important to realize that Laer Volkskool is declared a national monument. The front part in Begeman Street is still known as the “Gedenk-Zaal” (memorial hall). This is where the people of Heidelberg, who paid the highest price during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902) were honored. They were 90 burgers on the battlefield, 624 men, women and children in concentration camps, and 153 died at home or in the field. That is a total of 867 sacrifices for their liberation of the people. These numbers gave meaning to the motto of the school: “Vir Volk en Vaderland”
The chairperson of the Heidelberg Parent’s Association, Mr Dönges had discussions with Genl. JC Smuts. He undertook to regard Heidelberg as the preferred candidate when the new Normal College (Teacher’s College) would be built.
In 1909 the numbers of Laer Volkskool grew to 150. Heidelberg supplied quality teachers who were trained at the local Teacher’s College. This was the case up to 1967 when the college was closed because of political reasons. The college then moved to the Goudstad Teachers’ College as a counterpart for WITS.
Since then the struggle about the language policy still continues. The politically motivated motto in black schools throughout the struggle was “liberation before education”. Apart from the Christian character, the battle for mother-tongue education is still a sensitive topic. According to the “Beeld” newspaper on 1/3/2011 mother tongue languages in Gauteng are spread as follows: IsiZulu (21.59%), Afrikaans (14.4%), Sesotho (13.1%) and English (12.5%). After a century, Laer Volkskool is still a banner in the struggle for conservative education – for “Volk and Vaderland”.