Rector’s eNews – 20 January 2021/ Rector's eNews
May I begin my first e-News of 2021 by wishing all parents, Old Boys and the broader Michaelhouse family a rewarding, fulfilling and, most important, a healthy year ahead. We have all been saddened by the untimely deaths of a number of friends and family and this has made us more appreciative than ever of the value of relationships and of our human frailty. Some boys have sadly lost parents over the holidays and we have also reflected on the passing of prominent Old Boy Mphathisi Filtane, as well as Dolly Mokgatle who served on our Board for several years; Anna Mpanza in our Housekeeping Department also sadly died. The new variant of Covid-19 has had a greater impact on Southern African society than we had thought possible and we still have difficulties to face in this regard, but we need to move onward with the view to building on the successes of the past year and in a positive spirit.
To this end, we had very much hoped to begin the school year with the boys back here and forming a Michaelhouse bubble once again, having been tested for Covid. However, this was not to be. My thanks go again to the parents who ensured that their sons kept away from super-spreader events and parties, especially over the past ten days and had their sons tested preparatory to a potential return to school. We will have to ask for your help again in these areas in coming days when a date for a return to Michaelhouse is agreed so that we do not fail to clear the first hurdle. As I have already suggested in previous correspondence, we are now due to start online in the next days and, for the time being, will continue with this provision so that there is a sense of calm and clear direction as we begin the business of the year. In this regard, parents will have noted in my missive of Monday 18 January, with the attachment from the IT Department, what the programme will be for the next few days. We recognise that being online may be a particular challenge for those E Block boys who have not yet met their teachers and are not yet familiar with the modus operandi of Michaelhouse, but I am sure that the boys will, very quickly, demonstrate the resourcefulness and determination which we associate with our young people and will be confident of succeeding. Their tutors, teachers, Housemasters, IT staff and everyone associated with the Michaelhouse team is here to help them.
At this juncture I want to welcome the teachers who are new to us: Rev Chris Meyer is our new Chaplain and he joins us from the Umhlali parish where is already greatly missed as he was so popular; Mr Gerry Noel is a Life Sciences teacher who joins us as our Senior Academic (in the place of Mrs Win de Wet). Gerry is an Old Boy (Tatham, 2003) who has won many accolades in his previous role at Bishops in Cape Town over the past 10 years; Mr Brandon Venter is our new HoD History and he comes to us from Reddam House Helderfontein where he was Deputy Headmaster. Brandon is a very good cricketer who was on the fringes of the professional game. Mr Steven Ngwenya is a highly regarded Mathematics teacher from Mitchell House with a keen interest in soccer and basketball and Mr JP Olivier joins us to teach Afrikaans having been Master in Charge of Rugby at St Stithian’s prior to which he played 121 matches for Pirates Rugby Club in the front row. Ms Lawanda Zondi is our new part-time Music School & Theatre Administrator and Ms Keren Shunmoogum is the new Library Assistant. Mrs Win de Wet has replaced Mr Alan Adlington-Corfield in the role of Deputy Rector: Academic, as previously announced. We also welcome Mrs Joni Warburton who has joined us, too, as Financial Director, augmenting our Bursary.
I am also pleased to welcome six new interns – Richard Cowper-Johnson, Alex Deetlefs, Sihawu Dube, Jayden Gengan, Jacques Linde and Junior Mazibuko. We are indeed, fortunate that there are top-quality applicants for positions at Michaelhouse and the careful selection of inspiring teachers and good academics is able to be balanced with capacity in the co-curricular sphere. I welcome those who are new to us and look forward to an immensely positive contribution from them to the life of Michaelhouse.
In attempting to simulate an “at school” start to the term, I spoke to the boys through a pre-recorded message on-line as if they were seated in the Schlesinger Theatre for the beginning of year assembly about building a strong academic profile and that this requires hard work, consistent application, initiative and independent study. Looking at the year ahead, I made the following five key points encouraging them:
- to be “realistically ambitious”, to set out on this year with a positive spirit, aiming for attainable, but challenging, goals in the academic, sporting and cultural spheres.
- to recognise that they will not always succeed at first and to demonstrate grit and continuing determination for example in on-line learning challenges, if they do not succeed at first.
- to consider the importance of problem solving, to look to themselves firstly when issues need resolution but to understand, as well, that there are many here such as tutors, Housemasters, sports coaches and other staff who are enthusiastic about helping and guiding them.
- to look outwards and upwards in their relationships rather than inwards. This entails being warm hearted and kind, thoughtful in relationships with others and demonstrating respect, rather than simply being concerned with themselves. A sense of responsibility for others is needed and I pointed out that it is ironic that those who are most fulfilled and contented are the ones that are most concerned about others and least concerned about themselves.
- to be disciplined and consistent in their actions. Nobody can achieve success without discipline which entails respect for your own ambition, for others and their needs and for the organisation to which you belong. Rules are here for a purpose and I advised them to think carefully before breaking rules, particularly the more significant rules which could have them losing their places at Michaelhouse and causing heartbreak for parents, friends and others. A productive and constructive course in the months ahead is a far better option!
I said that I believed that, if they rose to the challenges of these five considerations, then 2021 would be a happy and successful year for them at Michaelhouse and that they would demonstrate their pride in their school and respect for those who have presented them with the opportunity of developing themselves under the Michaelhouse banner.
We really look forward to seeing the boys back at school, welcoming those who are new to us and noting the maturation of those who have been here in previous years. By the way, my talk to the boys is on the Moodle platform from today.
There is a further message on Moodle from Rev. Chris Meyer who introduces himself and will make available an abbreviated act of worship on Wednesdays and Fridays, consisting of a short message and a prayer, along with a daily devotion which aims to provoke thought and offer the boys encouragement for the challenges of each day.