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Headmaster’s Celebration Speech 2011

Headmaster’s Celebration Speech 2011

Honourable Mayor, Mrs Wolmarans, Mr Michael Spies, Honoured guests, Mr and Mrs Wallington, Board members, Mr Cees Rijsdijk from the Royal Society of South Africa, Parents, Colleagues, Oakhillians, Ladies and Gentlemen. It is my great pleasure to present to you the 19th annual report on the activities of the school.

Last week Stefan Weyers, our Director of Sport in the Prep school, headed out for a walk with his young son. Zachary is a year old and Stef was pushing him the state of the art three wheeler, jogging pram. Needless to say, and if you know Stefan, he was not jogging. Well not until a swarm of bees attacked him and forced him to sprint down the road to protect his son. In the process the front wheel of the pram dislodged and Stef, who was still being attacked by the bees, somersaulted over the pram as it dug into the tar. The pram catapulted over him and eventually they both came to a halt along-side the road. Stef gathered himself and rushed to see his son being attacked by the bees but bleeding profusely as a result of the accident. In a panic he flagged down a car and a kind soul wound down the window to help. Stef asked that they keep the child in the car to protect him from the bees. The kind lady took one look at Zachary and shouted that she was driving straight to the Private Hospital and off she sped, leaving Stef stunned and bleeding profusely from his own injuries. He ran home sobbing and praying that all would be well and you can only imagine the conversation with his wife when he appeared without his son. Nevertheless they sped up to the hospital where Zach lay comforted by the nursing staff calm but bruised. All was well!

Well you may ask, why start with such a traumatic story? I am often reminded by stories like this, that there are only moments, seconds that separate triumph and tragedy. It reminds me that each moment in the life of a child is significant. Stef’s story could have ended very differently but by the grace of God it did not. Each moment with our kids needs to be treasured and on occasions such as this we are blessed to celebrate many moments in the last year which have been significant.

2011 has been a year of wonderful growth and development in our school but it has also been a year of immense sadness and a reminder of our mortality. This wonderful institution was started 19 years ago by a wonderfully forward thinking group of parents and teachers and one of the prime movers and thinkers was Pam Muir who had two sons, Matthew and Robert matriculate at Oakhill. Pam tragically passed away earlier this month and I would ask you to stand for a moments silence as we honour a founder of the school, a wonderful mother, wife of Andy and friend, who gave of herself so willingly that many may benefit from this great school. (moment silence).

We also think of the excruciating bus tragedy which claimed 15 lives from our community. It is at times like these that I recall Nelson Mandela’s word’s describing one of South Africa’s great statesmen: Walter Sisulu: what counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead. And so too will our school be judged and I would like to thank all in our community who gave of themselves to support this community in grief at the hour of their deepest need. Geoff Minnit, Deon van Zyl and many Oakhill students and parents helped at the funeral carrying chairs and cooking food. Many also contributed to a fund set up by us to pay for the essentials, as these families tried to piece their lives together. Many of our own employees, at Oakhill were directly affected by this tragedy and our thoughts and prayers continue to be with them as they come to terms with their immense loss.

I am also aware of many of you: colleagues, parents and pupils who have shared your personal stories with me regarding tragedy, illness and heartache in your lives. There is much suffering and sadness in our community and our reaction to this reality of life, is ultimately what will determine the significance of the life we lead as a school and a community. At the core of all we do is our humanity and our frailty and if we cannot support, empathise and draw along-side each other at our time of need, we lose what it is, that makes us a school.

The way of the modern world is not easy and I have been weighed down by the pace at which we move, the selfishness with which we sometimes operate as human beings and the win-at-all-cost mentality which can consume our thinking and decision making. We as parents push our kids to be better, fitter, smarter and quicker than their peers and in this process we lose sight of the fact that they happen to be individuals. Oakhill seeks to meet individuals where they are, not compare them with another but rather to encourage them to look at themselves as unique and special. We need to remember this as parents – we need to remember to allow our daughters and sons to figure out their strengths and weaknesses and to gain confidence by the mere fact that they are different to anybody else.

I have chosen to start this speech by talking of heartache, sadness, tragedy and frustration but like with all things at Oakhill and in life, it is for the triumphs we have gathered, to celebrate today – and triumphs there have certainly been.

I happen to teach Luthando Kolwapi this year and he wrote an essay earlier in the year which I thought summed up what Oakhill is about – he said:
Our teacher asked us to write without thinking. I mean, what is she thinking? I am sure she is not thinking at all because how is that possible, but I did as I was told and put ink to paper. As I am writing I am trying so hard not to think but it’s a bit of a challenge.

You see thinking is part of all we do here – the joy of learning entails thinking and Peter Senge, in his book The Fifth Discipline says:
Learning is not just taking in information. Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we recreate ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we re-perceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life. There is within us a deep hunger for this type of learning.

Luthando indicates in his essay that he just did what he was told and: put ink to paper. Well let me tell you that this would be the first time Luthando Kolwapi just did what he was told. You see Luthando is a thinker and realises that Learning is not about: just taking in information. Real learning emphasises getting to the heart of what it means to think. Learning is messy and until we as a school and particularly as parents and a community realise, understand and contextualise this we will not succeed in becoming a true learning and thinking environment.

Butterflies are beautiful yet vulnerable just like all the young men and women before me here today. Butterflies also grow up uniquely – they are initially caterpillars but they transform eventually into beautiful, translucent, multi-coloured, delicate creatures which amaze and capture the imagination. When I was young I remember watching this process carefully with a friend who had collected some caterpillars. We watched in amazement as the first cocoon was slowly broken open and how the emerging butterfly squeezed through the smallest of holes, in what seemed to be an excruciatingly painful, agonisingly awkward, laborious process. Eventually after much struggle and effort the creature emerged, exhausted and spent of all energy and strength. It flopped out of the hole and seemed to lie there for ages and just as we thought we should pick it up and tip it in the bin it started to spread its wings and eventually it fluttered off into the breeze, in all its splendour as though nothing had happened. As we sat there we saw another cocoon pop open and my friend who happened to be a girl said: let’s help this one and ran off and collected a razor blade. We painstakingly cut through the cocoon taking every precaution not to harm the delicate creature within and allowed the butterfly to emerge looking far stronger and determined than its brother a couple of minutes earlier. Nevertheless to cut a long story short, the butterfly never took off, it stood transfixed in the box until eventually it fell over and died. It was only later that I realised that this initial struggle of the butterfly releases something onto the wings which allows it to fly. Without the struggle there are no wings! And this is so true for our own sons and daughters too.

As parents we are anxious about our children’s ability to perform and learn. We – and I include myself in this – believe that our children’s performances whether they are good or bad have a direct influence on what others think of us. We assume, because of our own mental models, that our children’s achievements or lack thereof are a direct reflection on our own ability and prowess as parents. We encourage kids to strive for perfection and in doing so inadvertently give the message that making mistakes is not allowed – and this ladies and gentlemen is how we put kids into boxes, like most schools do, and in the process we stifle their creativity and ability to explore and discover their true potential because, more than anything, they start to fear our reactions. In the very time that they look to us for affirmation, we are scowling because they have not reached our own high standards.

We sometimes cannot control our impulses as parents and we interfere in our children’s growth, we take control. We instinctively want to make it easier for them by stepping in and solving their problems for them. We instinctively do not want them to experience some of the heartache we experienced as kids. We need to encourage our sons and daughters to understand and accept that life is imperfect – to accept that this is the very essence of being human, the very essence of learning and growing. We are tempted to interfere in the learning process and inadvertently, by doing so, cut the cocoon for them. We forget that struggle builds resilience and motivation. Struggle builds perseverance and determination. Struggle shapes our very being and ultimately gives us wings – without it we die.

We live in a culture that encourages instant gratification yet everything I read indicates that we do our children immense damage by allowing them to think that life is easily solvable and understandable. It’s not; it’s extremely complex, intricate and delicate. Our very natural instinct to protect does more damage than we realise.

I do not want you to think that I or Oakhill as a whole are trying to make excuses for our own inadequacies. I particularly, and the organisation generally have made some significant mistakes this year but in a learning organisation we realise that it is this very fact that makes us human and through learning from our mistakes we recreate ourselves. Through learning we become able to do things we never were able to do. Through learning we re-perceive the world of our parent body and our relationship with you.

These last two weeks have been quite stressful in our organisation because we have made many mistakes and I would like to apologise unconditionally for this. We sent out the 2012 fee structure which was incorrect. We then corrected it and resent it – without the relevant attachments. I am not sure what the collective noun for many errors is, but this was certainly a comedy of errors. You can imagine how we were feeling when we finally were able to get the completed documents to you – embarrassed, exhausted and deflated that we had got it so wrong. Nevertheless we have learnt some vital lessons and we will be the stronger for it.

We have also been plagued with errors in our reporting system this year. We have often got marks wrong on reports and we will need to ensure that we have systems in place which will enable us to rectify this in the future and I assure you we will. Thank you for trusting us to do this and for allowing us to be human in the process.

Allowing mistakes means that we are growing our idea of being a creative, thinking and learning organisation and at this point I come back to my story about Luthando. He is not the only creative, innovative young student we have here – there are many, but I want to highlight one other who quietly gets on with the business of learning and growing at Oakhill. She is not afraid of mistakes and her ability to continually embrace them and ultimately learn from them will certainly propel her to greater heights in the future. In fact, who knows, she might be our second published author at Oakhill. Emily Stevensen recently took up the challenge of writing an article about a teacher who has influenced her positively. Jonathan Jansen – Vice Chancellor of the UFS – launched a competition in the Sunday Times encouraging all South African’s to write an article about a great teacher. Emily took up the challenge and her article has been selected from thousands of submissions to be published in his book in November. I have asked her to read it to us! (Emily Stevensen).

Oakhill has two teachers who feature in this publication and I am afraid you will need to purchase the book to see who the other is, but we are immensely proud and incredibly sad that Emily and Isabel will be moving to the UK next year. We wish her Isabel, Frank and Katrina every blessing as they embark on this new journey – we will miss them!

Creativity certainly abounds at Oakhill and we are launching many new facilitations and facilities to ensure that we prepare your sons and daughters for the 21st century world. In doing so we will make mistakes but I think it is worth it.

Bernie Trilling of Oracle Education Foundation says: Our world has been transformed. The 21st century is a dramatically different place to live, work and learn. Since education is the preparation for work and life, education must meet new 21st century demands.

It is incumbent on Oakhill to innovate and prepare young men and women for life and I am excited by some of the strategic decisions we have taken to ensure that the young men and women of Oakhill will not be surprised by life after school.

We have redesigned a new state of the art Science laboratory which will allow our students to experience, first hand, the joys of 21st century physics and chemistry. This facility will also be used by our Preparatory School to ensure that we expose our pupils at an earlier stage to the joy of learning in this area. At this point I would like to thank Trevor Cloete, a past parent, for donating the funds which have allowed us to revamp this classroom and we will be officially unveiling a plaque later in the month to thank him for his generosity.

We have also started to revamp this quadrangle to make it greener and user friendly for all our students. We have recently completed three pods which will be used as outside classroom spaces for small discussion groups and think-tanks. Thank you to all the families who contributed to this project. We are hoping to complete the rest before the end of the year.

The Oakhill Odyssey was also launched this year and under the guidance of Riaan van Straten we will be undertaking this rite-of-passage at the beginning of 2012. The Odyssey is a 400km social, emotional, physical and spiritual journey which will take grade 10’s on a journey of a lifetime. This facilitation focuses on self-awareness and I have no doubt that this event will have a significant impact on the lives of our whole school in time.

Oakhill is also forging a relationship with Gordonstoun School in Scotland to design an exchange which will enable both teachers and pupils the opportunity to learn and grow by visiting this wonderful school and exchanging ideas. We would like to ensure that we build many of these relationships with schools from around the globe so as to ensure our connectedness to the world at large.

Furthermore, I am excited to announce that I am wearing a tie, donated to me by the Chinese education department. We have entered into a partnership with the Chinese Embassy to provide a Mandarin teacher from the start of 2012. This will not only allow us to learn this language but give us an opportunity to explore this 5000 year old history and culture. I am sure you are aware that China is the fastest growing economy and could be the world’s largest economy by 2040. Our current Grade 8’s will only be 34 years of age then and I am confident that their experience of this rich culture and history will have stood them in good stead. We also want to ensure that we arrange an annual trip to China to forge new relationships with schools in that country. Only last night did a parent email me the latest results for PISA (Programme for international school assessment) China has, for the first time, come out tops in both literacy and numeracy – we can certainly learn something from them.

Back at home we have forged a wonderfully vibrant and exciting relationship with Percy Mdala with the help of Mr Mike Spies from the Education Department. Our teachers participated in a four day academic workshop for Matric students and followed this up with a series of Saturday; subject specific workshops, which will hopefully help this school improve their Matric results in time. We would also like to introduce peer on peer teaching in 2012. There is nothing like teaching a subject to learn the material. A special thank you must go to Vanessa Eyre, our Bursary and Development officer, for all she is doing to ensure that we stay relevant and dedicated to our broader community.

Vanessa and Petra Quinlan also do so much for the Community School in Rondevlei which enriches so many lives. Thank you for your love and compassion of that community.

Oakhill is now also host to the new annual Independent Schools Co-Ed Hockey Festival arranged by our sports department. The inaugural festival this year was a huge success and schools from around the country are now clamouring to join this new venture. A huge thank must go to Dave Pryke and Peter Vieyra for breathing life into this innovative idea.

We also piloted our first experiential learning day. This is an exciting idea and encourages us to explore and discover more.

We have also started a technology think-tank which involves parents, teachers, students and IT Gurus. This innovation will allow us to forge ahead confidently into 2012 in the knowledge that we are keeping up with the latest trends and ideas. Ultimately we want to provide an IT platform which will transform the way our students think and learn, as they endeavour to prepare for the world at large. Mark Davies has encouraged us all to join an online debate which will enable us to pool ideas as we progress.

Linda Lifson has started the President’s award at Oakhill and we have only recently completed part of the Outeniqua trail under the guidance of Kyle Langman. This will enable students at Oakhill to contribute to community upliftment, and experience our beautiful surroundings. More importantly though, the young men and women of Oakhill will learn more about themselves in the process.

I am excited by these innovations and I have no doubt that through connecting with other people and experiences we will continue to re-perceive our relationship with the world around us, which in turn will continue to prepare us for a 21st century thinking and world.

The facts are that: 58% of kids do not finish school in South Africa. There is 25% unemployment and 56% of Matrics cannot find jobs. Oakhill needs to be innovative and vibrant in its quest to come up with strategies and ideas which will allow kids to be more entrepreneurial disciplined and resilient.

We will hear from Harry Maarsingh a little later in the programme – he has led our SRC this year. Harry is a quiet, humble intellectual, who rarely shares his opinion but he has ably led himself and the collective school body this year.

We started 2011 with our annual staff conference where we encouraged each other to make a difference, in the lives of all at Oakhill; to lead by example in all we do and ultimately to forge connections with pupils and parents which will build trust in the organisation as we endeavour to establish a world class learning and thinking institution. Harry has forged many connections here and has focused his energies on ensuring that he will produce outstanding results in his final examinations – I have no doubt he will succeed in doing just that and thank him for his input in the year gone by.

Academic results

The results achieved by the matrics of 2010 were truly impressive. Our 100% pass rate is still intact, but more than that we continued to impress by ensuring that 93% of our candidates received a university endorsement. Our small matric group of 29 candidates produced 55 distinctions between them.

Our SRC President Matthew Myers earned a level 7 (80% or above) in seven subjects, closely followed Wesley Robinson and Matthew Segers with six level 7 achievements. Ańel Wessels and Shivani Moodley achieved five level 7 achievements.

I have no doubt that our current Matrics will certainly follow in this positive tradition…they owe it to themselves to finish well.

I mentioned Jonathan Jansen earlier – I love his writing it is simple and from the heart. When talking about leadership he says this: I know one thing from my experience: that young people do not really listen to us. Rather they observe us and imitate us. There is a lot of wisdom in this simple statement and as teachers and parents we need to take stock of this.

The facts are, that many of our young men and women are in good spaces simply because we have great teachers and parents and families who are in good spaces. Our young men and women achieve so much because they feel nurtured and supported in all they do.

Oakhill has experienced a year of extraordinary achievements some of which have only recently happened:
Harry Marsingh, Brandon Wilcox, Nick Cuthbert and Nicola Giliomee won the bronze medal in the South African Championship Adventure race two weeks ago. Gabby Orzechowski, Natasha Minnitt; Dru Fosbrook and Rosey Finn came 9th in the U19 category and Amy Williams; Kevin Redman; Bram Thorpe and Joshua Nel came 7th while Anola Walk; Jason Campbell; Ben Giliomee and Alex Fulford came in in 8th position in the U15 category.

Music in the Blue was once again a spectacular event: Sasha Benjamin’s musical talent was exposed for all to see and we have a new maestro on the drums Lindi van Blerk. There will be many more opportunities for the music department to perform in 2012. Our Matric Drama portfolios were once again outstanding – facilitated by our very own Leanna Dreyer. We will see Akhona Vasi perform a little later in the programme. Monica Pichler achieved provincial gymnastic colours.

Josh Pieters ably led our cricket and Hockey sides with courage and wisdom – he is a true master on the sports field. Oakhill had 35 SWD hockey representatives this year. Our Karate and Mixed martial arts champions: Jurgen Graupe, Mitchell Sohn, and Luke Wilkenson amazed at a number of events. Jurgen is not with us this morning for this very reason.

Rosie Finn was once again selected to represent South Africa at sailing in Croatia – it’s great to have her back at Oakhill. Iqraa Daniels’ quiet strength and courage is seen by how she stands up for what’s right. Dean Matter speaks his mind calmly and gently. Warren Sassman makes a huge difference at the Metro Emergency medical services where he willingly just gives of his time. Jason Sherman won U19 Victor ludorum at Independent schools meet but not only that – his strength of character and his gentle approach with all at Oakhill makes him one of the foremost leaders here – I treasure each conversation I have with him!

Our current swimming stars are Mikayla Oliver and Anola Walk. Mikayla making history in the SWD region by being the first female ever to attend Nationals. Mikayla also won U17 Victrix ludorum at Independent schools meet – she is courageous and competitive and I have no doubt she will continue to shine here. Both Dayna Katz and Annèlichia Thysse were selected for the Provincial Tennis Team to go to the Interprov in Pretoria. Our Golfers, Jack Duthie Stephanie Perkins and Michael Schutz continue to impress. WOW! Niklas Martin came 1st in the at U20 bodyboarding Nationals – he must be the most humble high achiever I have ever met – we are truly proud of all he does and it’s great to know someone so famous. Kevin Redman is a motocross champion. Luke Mincione personifies organised, helpful and politeness.

For a small school to produce characters and achievements like these is truly remarkable. What is even more remarkable is our diversity of talent. Damien Webster a grade 8 is as courageous as I’ve ever seen on a rugby field. David Thesen is a philosopher king. Caleb Bell is the ultimate gentleman and Samantha de Kok has the most generous smile – in fact I cannot think of a time when I’ve seen her grumpy. Ross Eyre is a mystery and I look forward to meeting him one day. Tyler Tranter has made a significant impact here – his courage and quiet strength are an example to me and Georgie Ovenstone is the eternal optimist.

Staff

We started the year with new faces on the staff team:
Kyle Langman joined us in the Economic management Sciences department and has made a significant impact.
Leanna Dreyer joined us as Head of the Drama Department and her quiet, dedicated ways are an example to me.
Tiemke Rjipstra joined us in the Afrikaans department and has raised the profile of language teaching.
Riaan van Straten joined us to head up the Odyssey and adventure racing and his meticulous planning will ensure success in these areas next year.

Leaving

Inevitably these occasions see us formally note the departure of staff members. Rose Solomon who headed up our Sanatorium has had to take early retirement due to illness. She has made a significant difference in this area in the last year and we will miss her sense of humour and efficient ways. We wish her every blessing as she enters this new phase of her life.

Long service

We’re getting older and so are many of our staff members; and I would like to pay tribute to Dave Pryke for serving Oakhill in the last 10 years. We will be celebrating this milestone with him at the final staff function of the year but we appreciate all he has done for Oakhill School over the 10 years that he has loyally served it.

Elna Brown has some stories to tell about Oakhill and in the short time I have known Elna I certainly have some stories to tell about her – but I will not embarrass her on this occasion. Elna has served Oakhill since its inception and has served all 5 headmasters. She started at Oakhill in 1991 and celebrates 20 years’ service this year and I would like to thank her for all she has done for generations of students, parents and staff. Please help me show your appreciation for this milestone.

Some changes for 2012

We will welcome some new faces to our campus next year and I am excited by the talent which will be added to our team. We are currently in the process of securing the services of a new sport administrator who will take the place of Jannie Biddulph who left us earlier in the year.

Linda Lifson, has fulfilled the role of LO teacher as well as counsellor but after much soul searching we have agreed that our community needs a full-time counsellor. Linda will be taking up this position in 2012 and will be focusing on social and emotional issues within our student and parent body. She will also be designing new facilitations which will broaden the experience of all our students. She will continue to facilitate the President’s award but will focus on our community programmes as well.

Riaan van Straten will be taking over the LO department from Linda and will also be heading up our adventure racing as well as our leadership development programme which will focus primarily on the Odyssey but also incorporate the thinking for the Grade camps which happen every year. He will be working alongside Sheila Pasio as we endeavour to design a relevant and innovative programme in this area.

Heather Mayne will be taking up a new role in the administrative department and will run the Sanatorium from the beginning of 2012. She will also be in charge of the school clothing shop as well as help the College academic director in the mornings. Philip Mangisa will move offices to the server room and will take up the position of IT technician in a full time capacity. Peter Bishop who has been here many years will also be taking on a new role in 2012. He will continue to develop the ever important role of Old Oaks Liaison, focus on preparing us as a school for our 21st Birthday celebrations, complete the writing of the school history and teach a course in philosophy in the LO programme. Peter continues to play a vital role at Oakhill and his energy and wisdom continue to impact on many lives here.

Sue Carver will also be joining us in a full-time capacity in the English department from 2012. Sue has made an impact on language and History teaching here as a part time teacher and we look forward to her joining us in a full time capacity. Hanette Bouwer will also be joining us in a full-time capacity in the Life-Sciences department from 2012.

Being a member of staff at Oakhill can be perilous and I would like to thank each and every staff member for striving to be Linchpin this year. We have been more open to criticism and learning and we have travelled far in the last while, but we have another mountain to climb and I have no doubt that 2012 holds another exciting journey. In particular I would like to mention Dawie Botha for all he has done to build relationships in our community and to ensure that we continue to build sustainable systems. Barbie Leibbrandt is my conscience – she always makes me feel bad, but only because she is so good at what she does. She lives and breathes Oakhill and along-side her Justine Edwards does so much to make us look good. Justine does not like thank yous but I would be remiss if I did not make mention of the significant difference you make to the lives of both Barbie and I.

My office is certainly not getting any easier to run and this year we appointed Lizanne Hafner, an experienced and skilled PA, to help manage my burgeoning diary. She has done so with a smile and I can assure you it’s not an easy task – thank you!

The gardens and grounds continue to inspire me and we get so many compliments about the beauty of our campus. Albert, Robert, Gideon, Rueben, John and Phil have established a team which leads by example and all our other teams in the school including the academic one can certainly learn from their creativity. Phil has had a collapsed lung and 23 spider bites to show for his colossal effort this year and I know that the entire community is grateful. Our housekeeping team led by Shobana Moodley also continues to work tirelessly and I thank them for their commitment.

Ian Brymer and Paul Kotze have worked behind the scenes in the last six months to ensure that we will secure a piece of land to develop sport facilities and I cannot thank them enough for the time they have given to the school.

I would also like to pay tribute to the members of the PTA who continue to make a significant difference in relationship building – I am truly grateful for that. In particular thank you to Cindy Papgis, Susan Kotze and Lee Dawkins.

I would also like to thank Stacey Campbell, who has helped selflessly in the school clothing shop this year alongside many others who have generously given of their time. We could not have done what we have without you and I am personally grateful for all your effort.

Brenda McKechnie continues to help with the Yearbook and each year we become more efficient and the product becomes more remarkable. Thank you to both you and Sheila Pasio for giving us this gift of history.

This could not be done were it not for the photographers and in particular I would like to thank Justine, Jolanda and Petra for all you do in this area.

Some matrics have been here nearly as long as this school has existed and they are immensely proud of it. The Alan Graham shield is awarded to those in our school who started their careers with us in Grade 0 and progressed through the school and ultimately matriculated with us here in the College. This award for 13 years of schooling is no mean feat and is aptly named after the founding Headmaster: Alan Graham.

This year I am proud to announce that we will be awarding it to four of the matric group. Could I ask them to come forward to receive this now:
Kirsten Duthie, Harry Maarsingh, Maria Michalopoulis and Maren Seydack.

Goodbye to the Class of 2011

Lulu Read is our new SRC President and there is no doubt that she has wisdom beyond her years. She is courageous and bold, yet possesses that wonderful trait of being able to listen and empathise. I sense that our journey to becoming a true learning and thinking organisation will be emboldened by her leadership. I also sense that I will be learning much from her in the years ahead and that is exciting because ultimately that’s what Oakhill is about – young men and women. She wrote this poem which I would like to share with the Matrics of 2011:

Life was Simple
I miss those days, days without worry
Where friendships repaired in hours,
One minute you were throwing sand at each other, fighting.
The next you were skipping together, laughing.

Legs crossed and ears ready to hear,
A new story as it was that time of day.
When the teacher spoke you listened
believing anything that she would say.

Spheres of colour hanging from the ceiling,
pictures of pyramids painted across the wall.
It was all so colourful, so inviting.
You couldn’t help to catch the contagious giggle.
Where kissing catchers was the biggest scandal,
There was no cool kids, everyone was equal,
all there just to play.

Everyone grows up,
their innocence gets tainted.
So those years you must cherish,
as they were full of simple happiness

As our Matrics take leave of us I cannot wish them anything more fulfilling than a life filled with simple happiness. This poem encourages us to remember the innocence of our youth and extols us to hang on to it as you grow up. As you get set to write these final school exams and then finally fly off to start your next journey I want to wish you well. Have faith in yourself, value your friends and most of all your family. Develop a hunger for learning, enjoy a good book, embrace the real you and always believe that you can make a difference for the good of others.

So ladies and gentlemen, after a long and arduous journey, we have come to the foot of another mountain. We have experienced tragedy and we have seen the human spirit triumph. There are many who are exhausted emotionally and physically by the very nature of the sheer cliff in front of us. It is incumbent on those of us who are strong to carry the weak and weary. It is incumbent on us to remember those in the history of our world who have faced far worse crises. Churchill, during WWII, said to a group of officers who were shattered by the trauma around them:

Laugh a little, and teach your men to laugh… If you can’t smile, grin. If you can’t grin keep out of the way till you can. It is a crime to despair. Live dangerously; take things as they come; dread naught, all will be well.

I have no doubt that Oakhill is in good hands, the future is bright and it is beckoning us to be bold – there might be some trauma but in the end – all will be well!

Thank you and go well.

Shane Kidwell
HEADMASTER

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