Rector’s eNews – 04 August 2021/ Rector's eNews
Following the postscript to last week’s eNews concerning boys testing positive for Covid-19, I need to update you and to reflect that the number of boys currently affected is in the early twenties. These boys, along with the first contacts, are, naturally, isolating. According to reliable medical sources which have oversight of the national scene, the “reproduction rate” in Kwa Zulu-Natal at the end of last week was 1.9, indicating that there are approximately two additional people in this province contracting Covid for each person currently carrying it. Whilst on a national level, this figure is much lower and, indeed, well below 1 in Gauteng, for example, we continue to try our best to re-establish the Michaelhouse bubble and we hope that our boys who have been away will soon be able to return to us. The message that is, therefore, with the boys at the moment revolves around this scourge being very much with us in this province and that we and they need to continue to take appropriate action to curb its spread. I believe that we are doing everything which is reasonable and practical in this area and we hope that we will soon see the upward curve moving in a more positive direction.
For the moment our school sport remains principally of an intra-House nature for obvious reasons as the boys regain their fitness though we hope, in due course, to move into a more interesting phase with our co-curricular activities. We are certainly not in a position yet to re-commence our normal third quarter inter-school events and may not be able to do so during August. Time will tell.
Today marks the 125th birthday of Michaelhouse and we have celebrated this historic event in a two-tiered assembly, held with appropriate spacing and masks, in our amphitheatre. Our Senior Deputy Rector, Paul Fleischack, spoke to the boys and staff in a moving way about the origins of the school and the work of James Cameron Todd in establishing Michaelhouse on the principles which still impact on the school today (see Annexure A). Old boys all over the world have been asked to wear their Old Boys’ Tie on this special occasion to mark our anniversary but, in the light of the incidence of Covid, our celebrations here are relatively low-key, revolving around a thanksgiving service for the school and those who have shaped it over the years and the consumption of some cakes adorned with red and white icing. There are red and white flags, in place of the House flags, flying in front of the school, but there is no half-holiday for the boys and the normal programme continues.
On Monday we will be celebrating Womens’ Day, an event which is, I believe, particularly important in the context of a boys’ school. There will be a presentation by our Senior Prefect, Kwande Dhlomo, our Second Prefect, Jason Makhele, and by Nicholas Holt, a prefect in West House. The messages they will put across will be both of an historical and practical nature.
Firstly, there will be an oversight of the event which happened 65 years ago when, on 9 August 1956, twenty thousand women marched on the Union Buildings to protest against legislation encompassing the Pass Laws which tightened the apartheid government’s control over the movement of black women in urban areas. On this march, a protest song for the occasion emerged with the words “You strike a woman, you strike a rock”; this grew to represent women’s courage and strength over the next decades.
The national theme for 2021 is Choosing to Challenge – the notion is to call out gender bias and inequality and to celebrate women’s achievements in leadership. I have been interested to learn that the mimosa flower has, over the years, been chosen as a symbol of strength, sensibility and sensitivity as an emblem for Womens’ Day.
Secondly, there will be two practical messages put across by the boys and to the boys: the first of these revolves around the issue of consent and what this actually means in terms of sexual relationships between boys and girls, men and women. Then, boys will be asked to contribute in a practical way to alleviate the difficulties of a number of township girls who are not able to attend school as a result of not being able to afford the sanitary towels which are needed at the time of their period. 4TheThirty is an initiative started by two Redhill matric girls, Tegan Noach and Ffionn Evans, who aim to make a sustainable difference for a number of students who remain absent from school during menstruation. Their goal is to distribute reusable sanitary products to as many communities as they can. Michaelhouse has partnered with Redhill in this initiative so that we can help make what we hope will be a major difference to our surrounding communities here in Kwa Zulu-Natal. The senior boys feel that this is a great opportunity not only to educate our boys here about some of the difficulties that girls face, but also to impact positively on our less advantaged communities in the area relatively close to Michaelhouse. In terms of cost, each reusable sanitary pad costs R35 and lasts for approximately one year. Boys will be encouraged to donate to this cause and are allowed to wear civvies on Monday to indicate that they have aligned themselves with this venture. My wife, Brigitte, and I are very happy to fund 20 reusable sanitary pads and hope you might similarly support this practical way of making a difference in the lives of girls close to us. Nick Holt has been the driver in this venture and if you would like to contact him, his email is NicHol@www.michaelhouse.org.