Behind Morris Isaacson's Humble Faςade

This article was first published in the Saturday Star on June 17, 1995

By Tefo Mothibeli

Morris Isaacson Secondary School, sandwiched between White City and Central Western Jabavu in Soweto, looks like most other schools in the sprawling township.

But its humble façade belies the place in South African history that this school took after the June 16 student uprising.

This is where the idea of pupils challenging the might of the State was conceived under the leadership of Tsietsi Mashinini, Khotso Seatlholo, Dan Montsitsi and Murphy Morobe among others.

Little Change

When the protest was over, hundreds had been killed.

The only conspicuous change to the school is its size, most people say.

It opened its doors in 1956 and was originally called Mohloding.

"We started this school off with only about 300 students," says Legau Mathabatha.

A former principal of the school, he says he resigned from Morris Isaacson in 1976 as the police "constantly harassed me because they could not tolerate me."

When the Saturday Star visited the school, construction work was under way in the yard.

Morris Isaacson now has 36 classrooms, 1 100 pupils and 34 teachers.

One of the teachers, who was present during the 1976 unrest, Caiphus Morutse, says: "There is no significant change except that the students of '76 were not like the present ones. The pupils used to take their studies very seriously," he said.

"We never had a problem reminding them to wear the proper school uniform."

Morutse says Morris Isaacson "was the best when it came to music competitions, examination results and sports - this was the school."

He says he wishes it was possible to "wind the clock back and have the same good old days again with Tsietsi's generation."

The school was named after Morris Isaacson, an Israeli, who donated funds to build 10 classrooms.

He also built White City Isaacson Higher Primary, Mavis Hall and a crèche.

back to the Tsietsi Mashinini memorial page

"I, Tsietsi Mashinini, appeal to students to report back to school."
Tsietsi Mashinini, 1976
Picture © British Thames Television


In this lesson plan, learners are asked to think about how the different people in their lives would describe them. They are asked to reflect if they think that their caregiver or teacher would say the same things about them as their best friend. They will apply their insights on differing perspectives to historical sources such as newspapers and letters.

Lesson plan
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Archive Photo Gallery
Images from the short life of Tsietsi Mashinini.
Artwork Photo Gallery
Five views of the Tsietsi Mashinini memorial
The concept for the memorial
Johannes Phokela discusses the development of his concept for the memorial to Tsietsi Mashinini
Take a 360º tour of Mashinini's memorial opposite his former high school on Mputhi Street, Soweto.
Audio Slideshow