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Boetie Ungerer

Boetie Ungerer

‘It’s good not to know what you’re letting yourself in for because otherwise you might not have started at all.’

– Eduard (Boetie) Ungerer


When Curro first opened its doors on a rainy morning in a church in Vierlanden, Eduard (or Boetie) Ungerer returned to the classroom after not having been in one for at least 12 years. As one of the four founders, Boetie did not really know what he was letting himself in for when he decided to start the Curro journey – but, as he says, it’s good not to know since otherwise you might not have decided to start at all.   

After completing his BA degree, Boetie started his teaching career at Parow West Primary School and thereafter joined Durbanville High School as a Geography teacher. After completing his BEd degree, he started a programme for gifted learners along with Dr Kobus Neethling, and in 1986 he was appointed as the coordinator of the programme in the Western Cape, which he managed from the Parow Teachers’ Centre. It was here where he met Dr Chris van der Merwe.   

Boetie eventually obtained his MEd degree after which he spent most of his time training teachers in developing programmes for gifted learners in their schools. He was also a part-time lecturer at Stellenbosch University and after being an external moderator for Dr Chris’s masters’ thesis, they became friends. The rest as they say, is history. Dr Chris eventually put his thesis theory into action and formed SkoolCor to publish curriculum learning modules, and of course he asked Boetie to become part of the business. It was within SkoolCor that they started to speculate about the possibility of opening up a school of their own. *‘Dr Chris and his wife Stephnie got the ball rolling and I joined them. Plans were made to resign from formal teaching, flyers were designed, parent meetings were organised and in June 1998, Curro was born.’

The road to success was not without challenges, especially in the beginning. ‘Difficult decisions had to made on short notice. I had to resign after 23 years in the public education sector with a measly pension which had to go towards the development of a new school, we had to find suitable premises and staff, decide which grades to open with and what the school fees should be. Principals and teachers looked at us in astonishment and suddenly saw us as a threat since we might “steal” some of their learners.’ Actively presenting classes again after many years was another difficult task for Boetie (and the rest). He sometimes had four different grades in one class and had to teach in a church’s mother’s room, with a trolley as a desk and a wall as a screen. They also constantly had to work around the church’s activities so the whole school would go on impromptu field trips if there was a funeral for example. ‘The biggest challenge was probably to accommodate primary and high school learners on the same premises – the different needs of the parents of the younger learners and those of the older ones, was a constant source of conflict. Personally, my biggest challenge was being the head of high school – a position which, throughout my years of teaching, I always said I never wanted to hold.’

Along with the hurdles and hard times, there were of course many highlights. The construction of the high school building, after which primary and high school learners no longer had to attend class in the same building, the first matric results with a 100% pass rate, the first official sports teams who could compete against other schools, and academic success for learners who came into the school with below-average grades, are just some of the highlights Boetie mentions. ‘I think a path such as the one we chose cannot really be walked any differently and should be taken day by day.’

In 2004 Boetie had to undergo a quintuple heart bypass. ‘Fortunately that meant I could return to the position of Director of Curriculum Development, for which I was far better suited.’ He held this position until his retirement in 2011, but Curro is still part of Boetie’s family. His daughter, Liaan, is a teacher at Curro Durbanville High School – the first Curro school of which he started the high school section. Boetie and his wife Roma also have two other daughters, Anica and Terice, as well as two grandsons who keep them on their toes. Since his retirement Boetie has been keeping himself busy by writing school textbooks for Geography and Science and has also completed a course in translation. He even plans on writing a book about his life for himself and his family. ‘For the rest of it, I keep healthy by going to the gym and working in the garden as often as I can. In-between everything, I also find time to work on my wife’s nerves.’

For current alumni and everyone still involved in Curro, he says ‘it has been more than 50 years since I have completed my school career and the older I get, the more I become aware of the amazing foundation my school career laid for the rest of my life. It is important to keep, or make, contact with your school friends so that you can reminisce and talk about the good old days. So, take part in alumni activities – believe me, the need for contact with your school friends will only grow with age.’

Boetie believes that there will always be a place for independent school education in South Africa and that, without a doubt, the sector will only grow as the need increases. This of course means that there are still great things to come for the Curro family and Boetie credits his co-founders for Curro being part of the independent school sector. ‘Without the leadership, perseverance, vision, endurance and unbelievable positivity of Dr Chris van der Merwe, as well as the incredible hardworking and loyal staff members, the Curro dream would not have become a reality. Therefore, to Dr Chris, Thys Franken and Eddie Conradie I say: “If I see further than others, it is because I stand on the shoulders of giants” (Isaac Newton).’ Boetie Ungerer is certainly also one of these giants and part of the reason there is a Curro.


*Direct quotes have been translated