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Headmaster’s Newsletter: October 2015

Headmaster’s Newsletter: October 2015

Dear Parents,

Welcome back to Term 4 which as always is a very short sprint into the end of the year. Our staff have been working relentlessly over the holiday period to ensure that we are ready for this final push into the examinations for Grade 6 to 12 and I have no doubt that we have returned focused and motivated to ensure success for your children.

I have recently travelled to Johannesburg to talk to a group of 50 parents from girls’ schools regarding the Oakhill Odyssey. Knysna and Plett are isolated on the South West coast of South Africa but I came to realise, on this trip, that Sandton is isolated in its own way as well. These parents want an experience for their daughters which Oakhill established from scratch and now offers to Grade 10 students.

Oakhill also recently hosted the renowned economist, J P Landman, who reminded all in his matter-of-fact way that we need to see things in ‘bigger pictures’. Knysnians and Sandtonians are sometimes wrapped in a cocoon of self-indulgence and we get entangled in a web of rumour, deceit and selfishness which is beyond the pale. Landman encourages all of us to lift our heads above the parapets and to acknowledge how fortunate we actually are. This is extremely difficult in downward economic cycles but in his own succinct way he answered a question about the Rand plummeting against the Dollar by suggesting that we should get over ourselves and recalibrate our travel arrangements to include spending some time in our beautiful country instead of spending it in Europe or the USA. He is quite right of course, but our inward looking has lulled us into a self-centred approach to all we do.

After my trip to Johannesburg I was reminded of how fortunate we are:

  • We have a wonderful natural environment which we should not take for granted
  • Our school is not as pressured as city schools are
  • We live in a safe and secure environment
  • Our school is small compared to some Johannesburg Independent Schools
  • Our school fees are not as expensive as Johannesburg and our product is comparable if not better
  • We have a wonderful staff team here who are prepared to go the extra mile for our kids
  • And our kids are relatively relaxed compared to the rigid, one-size-fits-all approach

One thing the schools in Sandton and Knysna do have in common is the swiftness with which a story can get embellished. Only last week was I hearing about how a young man was inflicted with a life threatening injury on the sports field, when actually he had a minor abrasion but was removed from the field as a precautionary measure. I have been living in Knysna for seven years now and I am afraid I will never get used to the pettiness of the rumour and the gossip. Firstly, I detest hearing a story at the expense of someone or some organisation. Secondly, Oakhill is trying to establish a culture of critical thinking amongst its young men and women. ‘Don’t believe everything you hear’, we tell our kids. When researching, we insist on kids finding corroborating evidence to ensure that facts are checked and re-checked, yet I see adults happily accepting rumour and gossip as though it were the truth. Our kids learn by modelling and it is important to remind ourselves that we do our children a great injustice if we meddle in the gutter of hearsay on a regular basis.

So, why would Sandtonians want to send their children on a 400km journey through the beautiful countryside of the South Western Cape? For exactly the same reason we want to – to ensure that they grow and develop, physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually and to establish a modern rite-of-passage which is meaningful and life-changing. We will be hosting 30 fifteen year olds in their April holiday in 2016 to enjoy and experience this adventure and Oakhill continues to lead in many areas when it comes to creating facilitations which make a difference in the lives of our children.

We had an extraordinary Term 3:

Our U13 girls and boys hockey sides have won the final of the SWD league. I was fortunate enough to watch both sides play in the semi-finals: the boys against Glenwood who they beat convincingly by 4 goals to 0 and the girls against Outeniqua who were bigger and stronger than us. Our girls played outstanding hockey and won the game by 3 goals to 1 in a penalty shoot-out. In the final the boys beat van Rheede 6-0 and the girls beat Park from Mosselbay 1-0. Congratulations to all the players and their coaches Alastair Trafford and Rene Korsten respectively.

Our Matric musicians have recently participated in their Matric Music Practical examination and received results which were all above 93%, which is astounding. I would like to congratulate Danielle Laurre-Smith and Luke Mincione on this achievement but would also like to mention Dr Anneke Lamont who has nurtured them in the last few months as they prepared.

Our Head of Department: Science in the College also informed me that Leon Martin, one of our Matrics, has been accepted to Onderstepoort to study Veterinary Science in 2016. This is an outstanding achievement given that only 180 students are selected in the whole of South Africa per annum.

This year is the 6th year that Oakhill’s Prep children have taken part in the Annual George Loerie Eisteddfod. We entered 54 items with 37 children taking part and achieved 1 B+, 6 A’s, 20 A+’s and 27 A++. Emma Gibson, Georgie Gibson and Victoria Still were invited back to the Festival concert which is the first year that 3 of our students have been invited back. Emma Gibson also won the Junior Cup for the third year in a row which is a huge accomplishment.

Oakhill’s Dota2 teams (a computer game), Oak$ and Mr Project, travelled all the way from Knysna to Fairmont High School in Durbanville, Cape Town, to participate in the championships. They played 5 rounds of matches on Sunday, 23 August. Each match lasts no longer than one hour. To earn Provincial eSports Colours, a team has to finish in the top half of the MWeb National Interschool League as well as any Provincial Championship. By placing in the top three at a Provincial Championship, they also qualify to participate in the National Championship. Both teams played exceptionally well. They were up against some stiff competition, but had a great time showing their steel against the other teams. Team Oak$ (Liam Botha, Raphael Ceillier, Todd Walker, Jody Van Der Byl, captained by Jeremy Adams) earned their Western Cape Provincial High School Colours by placing second overall in the championship.

Three of our Prep tennis players who have climbed up the SWD rankings this term – Tessa Micic is currently ranked number 1 Girls U13 tennis player in the SWD region, Imogen Anderson number 12 and Jason Fogle number 4 in the Boys U13.

Light Blue kicked off our Cultural Festival for 2015 and I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing many of you and our children enjoying the dance production the music performances and ultimately the 36 hour Inter-House Drama. This is always a highlight in our calendar and whilst we have normally had the 36 hour Drama in the third term we are not convinced that adding the other facilitations has worked this time. The festival was a wonderful celebration of the Arts and I would like to thank Amy Nuttall and her team for exposing all of us to a wonderful array of music, art and drama.

I would also like to thank the Parent Committee who organized and ran a wonderfully successful Tyres, Takkies and Turf: Liesel Battel managed the whole event and was ably supported by Jacques Brink, Jo Tanner, Monique Donnell and Eva Micklewood. Thank you to all of them and our staff who spent many hours ensuring that this event was one to remember!

Our College U14 Water Polo side fared well at the Rondebosch tournament in Cape Town coming up against stiff competition but faring well against bigger, more established schools: We lost 6-3 to St Benedicts, 10-2 to Reddam, 7-1 to Glenwood (from Durban), 9-0 to Rondebosch and 4-0 to Westerford from Cape Town. This experience will certainly stand them in good stead for the season ahead!

Our College 1st XI cricket side led by Todd Walker also performed outstandingly at the Point Festival in Mosselbay. We beat Brakenfell by 8 wickets, Worcester Gymnasium, by 64 runs, Hofmeyr by 54 runs, Dirkie Uys by 62 runs and Paul Roos by 9 wickets. Todd Walker, Sam Mvimbi and Athi Kwitshane were the outstanding players of the festival.
It is also wonderful to see Veda Vosloo ending 2nd in the 80cm class at the Eastern Cape Eventing Championships – congratulations to her!

Please take note of the following important dates for Term 4:
  • College Matric Valediction: 16 October 2015
  • College Celebration of Excellence: 17 October 2015
  • Preparatory Grade 7 valediction: 12 November 2015
  • Preparatory FP Celebration: 26 November 2015
  • Preparatory IP Celebration: 27 November 2015
  • Little Oaks end of year concert: 02 December 2015

This is a short, rigorous term and I would encourage all parents to support their children wholeheartedly, particularly if they are writing examinations at the end of the year. Now is the time to provide support and structure as we head into, what can often be, an anxious time for many. Please do not hesitate to contact a teacher should you want to raise an issue and I look forward to celebrating all our students achievements in the next while.

The Chairman of the Board recently sent out a letter announcing the appointment of Richard Foyn as the new Finance Committee Chairperson. I would like to thank Richard for stepping into this position at this time in the school’s history and would encourage anyone who would like to communicate with Richard to do so via my office if necessary.

Yours sincerely,
Shane Kidwell
HEADMASTER

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