May 10, 2023

Rector’s e-News 10 May 2023

/ Rector's eNews

Over the past week the untimely death of two people has reminded us of the fragility of life. Last Thursday, we held a memorial service in our Chapel for Florence (Flo) Jali who was employed at Michaelhouse for 37 years, latterly in the Indoor Centre area as a cleaner.

Flo was much-loved and respected by her colleagues and by the boys who grew to know her as she cheerfully engaged with her tasks. It was only about 10 days before her death that she felt ill and a medical investigation revealed an aggressive form of cancer. Then, on Sunday, we heard the distressing news that a St Anne’s pupil, Molemo Molefe, had died in her room at school on Saturday night. This must have come as a terrible shock to her friends and, indeed, to all the girls, staff and parents at St Anne’s. We are immensely saddened by the untimely passing of Flo and Molemo and this causes us to reflect on how life, which seems so certain and predictable for most people on a day to day basis, can be taken away so unexpectedly. We can never take the gift of life for granted and this underlines the importance of living each day to the full.

On another completely different matter, we have been delighted to see the development of so many of our boys in certain ways over the past week. Those taking subject Music and subject Drama from the C Block upwards contributed on Friday evening, for example, to a concert of the highest quality – certainly the best of its type that I have been privileged to attend at my time at Michaelhouse. Saturday brought enjoyment and much success against a rival school, Kearsney, in rugby and hockey.

And then on Sunday, the intellectual stretch of some of our top academics was evident in the presentations of four Snell Society members. One of these, Samir Dookie, had researched extensively the age of majority as well as the age at which certain actions are legalised in South Africa and in the rest of the world. In essence, the question was posed as to when a young person becomes an adult. The notion that 21 was the age of majority when symbolically the “keys to the door of the house” were handed over has been replaced by a worldwide standard and indeed, legislation reflecting that majority is attained at age 18. At the age of 18, Samir pointed out, you are able to vote, drive a car if you have a licence, acquire property, enter into legally binding contracts and consume, purchase and sell tobacco and alcohol products. At the age of 16, people are entitled to open and operate a bank account, create a will and several other things including consent to sex. Samir continued with an overview of what the law states in terms of the capacity or otherwise of minors to engage in sex: for example, if an 18 year old and 15 year old engage in sex, this would be illegal and, indeed, constitute a statutory rape by the older partner. Samir went on to discuss the physiological development of the brain, suggesting that the period of adolescence was an optimal period for learning, but that research indicates that brain development continues well into the mid-twenties. The teenage years are a time of immense risk-taking and, as a result of the development of the brain alongside a growing experience of life, the ability to self-regulate and control impulsivity is generally only reached when the brain has reached maturity – in one’s mid-twenties. Should 25, therefore, be the age of majority? When is an adult still a child and what should the age of majority actually be was the question that pervaded a very thought-provoking presentation by one of our senior boys.

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