Rector’s eNews – 15 March 2023/ Rector's eNews
Next Tuesday (21 March), we will be celebrating Human Rights Day at Michaelhouse. Since we are an all-boarding school, we do not have a holiday on this day, but rather use it as a day of education and reflection: we give consideration to what human rights are.
On 10 December 1948, the United Nations General Assembly met in Paris and established the fundamental human rights which, it was believed, should be universally protected. This paved the way for the adoption of a variety of more carefully defined human rights in a host of countries, including South Africa. Some of the better known of those ideas contained in the UN Declaration are evident in the earlier articles of the Declaration. In Article One, for example, it was declared that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood. In Article Two, “everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth…without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs…” and in Article Three, “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. Other articles deal with freedom from slavery and torture, freedom to form one’s own opinions and expression, the right to work and to education and other non-discriminatory practices. A general overview of human rights may be encapsulated in the notion that one is free to live in such a way as one chooses without harming others.
As most people know, the Sharpeville massacre took place on 21 March 1960: 69 people died and 180 were wounded on that day which proved pivotal in the history of this country. South Africans, therefore, reflect on the sacrifices made by many and on human rights particularly on 21 March each year and, in the Bill of Rights in South Africa, the right to life, the right to equality and human dignity, the right to citizenship and security, as well as the right to associate with whom one wishes and to hold one’s own beliefs and opinions have been validated.
Some of the most violated rights in South Africa include gender based violence, the undermining of sexual and reproductive rights, the right to education, the right to health and the right to water and sanitation.
Next Tuesday we will hold an assembly during which we will focus on basic human rights as they impact on South Africans. Hopefully, boys will be inspired to be more conscious of the need to uphold human rights where they see them being eroded.
At a recent meeting of the Heads of Schools in KwaZulu-Natal, a Spectator Code of Conduct was discussed and we all fully endorse the importance of being proactive in supporting our boys and coaches and, indeed, creating a healthy climate of friendly rivalry and competition around our sporting events. However, such rivalry and competition should never encompass spectators using foul language, harassing players, coaches or officials, engaging in physical or verbal altercations and embarrassing our young people through bad behaviour.
We should respect the dignity and worth of all players, coaches and officials by applauding good performances and by congratulating participants, regardless of the game’s outcome. We encourage players to stick to the rules and accept the decisions of referees/umpires and to recognise that encouragement is the most powerful agent of motivation that we can offer. It is really important that, whilst being enthusiastic about supporting our teams, we maintain the right balance in our regard for our opponents. On a slightly different note, could I remind parents that we are a smoke-free zone, apart from a few specifically designated smoking areas around the campus.
I do wish to thank you in advance for your support and cooperation especially over the course of the next few months.