The founder of Heidelberg hoped that like his alma mater of Germany, Heidelberg here in South Africa would develop into an education hub. Heidelberg grew as an education institution from the basement of the Klipkerk. The education of war orphans started there and made way to establish Laer (1907) – and Hoër Volkskool. Teachers were however needed.
Rev AJ Louw arrived from the Riebeeck West congregation after his calling to Heidelberg. He used his relationship with one of his previous church members, Jan Smuts, to benefit Heidelberg. The Heidelberg Normal College was established here in 1909. The name would later change to the Heidelberg Teacher’s College (HTC) and provided teachers for CNE (Christian National Education) schools. The motto of the Teacher’s College was “Pro Deo et Patria” or for God and country. Their anthem was based on the old Transvaal Anthem and started with :”Kent gy dat dorp op’t Hoge Veld, naar vreemd naam genoemd.”
In 1918, even the famous artist, Pierneef, taught here and the student numbers grew from 67 and 5 lectors in 1909 to 1 023 students and 65 lectors when the institution closed down in 1967. Rag processions were frequently seen and Heidelberg bragged with its own movie and drive in theatre. Heidelberg came to life and took great care in the education of our youth. Even Romberg’s Student Prince was performed here in 1965 as part of their cultural contribution. This was also broadcasted from the campus over the Afrikaans radio station, “Radio Suid-Afrika”. Two modern hostels, “Uitsig” and “De Jagerhuis” were opened by the then premier and MP for Heidelberg on 24 September 1964. Uitsig is still the highest building in Heidelberg and stands out as a beacon. The building had the first lift in Heidelberg. After the assassination of Dr Verwoerd in 1966, the Broederbond and the Nationalists decided to close ranks and rather use the property for military purposes. The WITS campus in Johannesburg grew in numbers and was seen as a threat. The unpopular decision was made to close down the Heidelberg Teacher’s College and to incorporate it with the Goudstad Teacher’s college. After 58 years and with a record number of students it closed in 1967.
After the closure of the HTC in 1967, the dean, Mr AC Möller, became the principal of Hoër Volkskool. It still contributes to Heidelberg as an education institution. The old school hostels, Excelsior, Concordia and Transvalia were replaced in 1965 with the hostels of Hoër Volkskool. Hoër Volkskool became the most important education institution.Heidelberg was also well known for their protection services. It was even part of the College anthem where it confirmed: “… omburgertrouw beroemd.” This refers to the Heidelberg Commando which had to protect the ZAR and triumvirate government of the past. The Army Gymnasium followed after the HTC closed down. Junior officers including women are still trained at Alfa Base. Many young men completed their compulsory military training in Heidelberg during the struggle years. In fact Heidelberg trained the elite recruits for our security. The Army Gymnasium has been active since 1975 when they celebrated their 25th anniversary and also received the freedom of Heidelberg. The closure of the educational college was a loss to Heidelberg as part of a political struggle, but are we still the Alpha Base for security and training in SA.