March 22, 2023

Rector’s eNews – 22 March 2023

/ Rector's eNews

Last week was an excellent week for the school in so many respects and left many of us feeling really proud of Michaelhouse.

Firstly, the naming of the Dloti Quad was a poignant occasion. On this occasion a much-loved boy, Themba, who died in the bus accident of 2017 and who contributed so much to Michaelhouse through his exuberance was remembered, along with his father, Thabo, whose contribution lay in his being a Board member and Vice Chair of the Board. A plaque near the steps coming up from Baines into the quad was unveiled following an address by our Chairman, Mr Andrew Schaefer, and a reply from the Dloti family.

Then we had the pleasure of witnessing the high-tech nature of the Makan Centre which was opened with much excitement even if the paint was still drying on the walls! Mr Divesh Makan is an example of a man who came from a humble background in Pietermaritzburg and found his niche, particularly after his Michaelhouse years, as he moved to the Silicon Valley where he has excelled. We are immensely grateful to him and his family for their contribution to Michaelhouse and an explanation of the purpose of the Makan Centre is contained below in my speech at the opening on Friday:

“It was some three years ago that a meeting of eleven academic staff took place. At this meeting an intense discussion was held about the evolution of education in the 21st Century, including the creation of an ideas laboratory for future-fit teaching, coding, the creation of apps, animation, video production, sports analysis and the furthering of entrepreneurial ideas. The notion of how to tackle real world issues such as inequality, food and water scarcity and climate change in a trans-disciplinary way prefaced a conversation about the fact that fresh problems and the need for real time solutions would develop exponentially over the next 10 years. Issues of diminished power resources were not, at that stage, as significant as they are today and this is testimony to the fact that we live in a fast-paced and changing world.

Almost simultaneously, the Makan family came forward and spoke of their desire to support Michaelhouse and, with Divesh Makan being known as one of the more illustrious Old Boys in the Silicon Valley, a happy union of the needs of Michaelhouse to build on its educational leadership in South Africa and the Makan family’s own interests was created. A Makan Centre was conceived.

The gestation period was lengthy and a key question was asked as to where this new centre would be – perhaps on the side of Willows, perhaps behind the Schlesinger Theatre? Or somewhere else? Brave teachers such as our academic leaders, Gerry Noel and Win de Wet and others resisted this and insisted that, since its purpose was at the very heart of 21st Century education, the only place the Centre could be was at the epicentre of the school.

Michaelhouse is fortunate to have an architect of the calibre of Nick Grice and a devoted and outstandingly multi-faceted servant in Gordon Bruins and they set about fulfilling this wish. You do not have to seek out the Makan Centre; you are already there. This high-tech unit is skilfully attached to the existing Media Centre with a walkway between the two and provides a magnificent resource for our boys who will collaborate and design ideas and solutions to the problems that their generation and future generations are to encounter.

The approach to teaching in the Makan Centre to facilitate this will be student–centric and trans-disciplinary; the Centre has flexible meeting rooms for sharing and collaboration, a high tech video conferencing lecture theatre, a film and sound studio for the exploration of issues on the screen and a place of action for coding and robotics. It is a junction for the meeting of ideas and students in the school.

Today we celebrate the opening of the Makan Centre in the presence of the Makan Family who have so generously resourced this development and, in doing so, have made a very significant contribution to the educational landscape of Michaelhouse, a contribution which will have a far-reaching influence not only on our boys but on educational thinking in South Africa and beyond.”

Read the full Rector’s eNews here

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