September 15, 2021

Rector’s eNews – 15 September 2021

/ Rector's eNews

This has been a long and challenging term but, as we move towards the end of it, there are many green shoots appearing, particularly with regard to the capacity of our boys, once again, to enjoy the friendly rivalry that comes with competition in the co-curricular sphere against other schools. Though some of the school has been away with, for example, the C Block Journey, we were able to have some soccer teams play matches last week for the first time and preparations are underway for the sports tours which boys will enjoy in the holidays as they work themselves back into fitness and form for our standard summer fixtures in the fourth quarter.

More immediately, our D Block left early on Monday morning on the Cultural Immersion Experience in Pondoland. Boys and parents who have experienced the April Pondoland hikes over the past years have commented on the impact of the experience which is a response to the need for greater cultural awareness and appreciation of diversity and which, simultaneously, allows the boys to experience the beauty of one of the last unspoiled areas in the country. The objectives of the Pondoland coastal experience are to provide boys with an immersion experience where they will encounter Mpondo hospitality, traditional dress, ceremonies and other aspects of their culture. The hope is that, through guided conversations with local adults, they will understand the livelihoods, needs and aspirations of the local people, engage in conversation around the concept of ubuntu, learn about customary laws and discipline, about the medical and cultural uses of plants and about how the fisherfolk of the area use the ocean adjacent to them as a resource. In short, our D Block will grow to understand something of the local rural lifestyle, albeit for a short period of 3½ days.

The E Block outdoor education programme similarly takes place over some 3 days, but is held in our own Reserve adjacent to Michaelhouse. Here boys will learn basic skills which are vital for the later experiences which they will enjoy in the D and C Blocks. The purpose of the camp is three-fold. Firstly, we want to develop greater unity and camaraderie amongst the house groups to enhance their time at school. Secondly, we want to expose them to multiple activities and situations in preparation for the D Block Hike and C Block Journey in the years that lie ahead. Finally, we want to equip them with various outdoor skills and experiences on our very own Reserve in a way which will encourage them to make use of this unique area throughout their time at Michaelhouse. Some of the activities include raft building and racing, camp design, orientation, a period of solitude, tug-of-war, and team building, culminating in a day-long hike on the final day of the camp through the surrounding indigenous forest, local farmland and plantations. The camp gives the boys an opportunity to reflect on their time here at Michaelhouse inter alia through evening solitude sessions in which they answer some thought-provoking questions in a journal. The boys cook their own food each evening, with a highlight being the potjiekos competition held on the second night. The competitive edge of the camp drives team spirit allowing individual and collective growth, and many friendships are developed. We hope that this experience will be one of the highlights of the boys’ E Block year at Michaelhouse.

The return of the C Block boys from the Journey is eagerly awaited on Thursday afternoon where their experience ends with a Chapel Service. The boys will have cycled, paddled and walked many miles over two weeks and, as usual, this experience is often regarded as life-defining. The boys have had to contend with adverse weather conditions such as pouring rain, but the last few days have, hopefully, been better. What is absolutely certain is that they will appreciate the simple things of life as never before such as being able to take a hot shower and to lie on a bed!

On a completely unrelated topic, I am delighted to announce that Mr Sibs Ncamani, Housemaster of East, has been appointed Deputy Rector: Pastoral from January 2022. I was able to inform the parents of East about this on Friday evening and, though he will be sorely missed by East boys and parents, his influence throughout the school will add much to the well-being of all the boys throughout Michaelhouse in 2022 and beyond. His appointment will coincide with a marginal re-structuring of the roles of the Deputy Rectors: as we all know, Mr Paul Fleischack is due to retire at the end of next quarter after many years of dedicated service to Michaelhouse. Mr Allan Laing’s area of responsibility in terms of administration will continue in much the same way as before, and he will also have an oversight of the co-curricular programme though, with Mr Ryan Strudwick and Mr William Silk leading activities on the sporting and cultural front, this will be relatively “light touch”. Mr Sibs Ncamani will work extremely closely with Mr Allan Laing on a number of issues with a keen focus on promoting the well-being of all of the boys in the school. Mr Sibs Ncamani has worked through the ranks at Michaelhouse from intern, to Geography teacher, to Head of Department, to Housemaster and now to Deputy Rector: Pastoral. I am sure that you will wish to join me in congratulating him on his appointment. We will naturally put in motion arrangements for the selection of his successor in East House.

Making reference back to the enormous success of Jean van der Westhuyzen in winning a gold medal in the Olympics, the Board decided, at its recent meeting, that we should approach Jean with a request to rename the New Dam at Michaelhouse after him. I was, therefore, delighted to receive a message from him over the weekend, thanking us for the honour of renaming New Dam the van der Westhuyzen Dam. In his response he said, “Michaelhouse as well as New Dam was absolutely critical to my development as an athlete, but more importantly even more so for my personal development. Thank you for presenting me with this honour. I will gladly accept.” So, in the upshot, New Dam is no longer New Dam, but van der Westhuyzen Dam!

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