9 October 2019 – Good evening Ladies and Gentleman. Let me add my welcome to all of you tonight. Parents, learners, this is a time of celebration as we recognize the achievements of our learners through the year. To all receiving awards tonight, congratulations. To those who are not, remember that he who sees in secret rewards in secret! While we celebrate those receiving awards tonight, we must remember that there is more to being a praiseworthy person than public recognition. Staff and department officials, I hope you enjoy the evening, and I hope that you know you are valued as we celebrate those who have achieved under our care and guidance. This is the essence of our calling.
Mr Biko, I want to especially thank you for joining us tonight. I am proud to lead this school, a transformed institution from the bastion of exclusion it was once. At reunion this year, alongside the traditional wreathes that we laid to remember the Old Boys of this school who lost their lives in conflicts around the world, we also laid a wreathe in memory of members of the King William’s Town community who might have attended Dale College, but could not due to the segregatory policies of the time, but who lost their lives or contributed to the fight for democracy and freedom in our country. At short notice, you were not able to join us at reunion, but we appreciate you joining us here tonight. To meet you, to hear Mr Nzima’s story of burying your father, to have you address our learners and inspire them to take their place in society both humbles and excites me.
Ladies and gentleman, just last weekend a core group of leaders on our school did a workshop on the Critical Performance Areas we need to focus on as a school. As part of this, we needed to dig into our understanding of who we are as a school, and what we want to achieve. There is much to say on this, and I won’t go into all of the fine details, but amongst others we said that we would become a leading school in the Eastern Cape because we would produce:
… confident, self-disciplined learners who are both, well versed in English and proud of their context; grounded with a strong academic foundation and exposed to a broad range of opportunities.
This is who we are, for some learners certainly…
- Are we achieving this for all learner? Possibly not, but then we need to become better at what we are doing.
- Does this represent the traditional Dale College legacy? Confident, self-disciplined learners, well versed in English, strong academic foundation, exposed to a broad range of opportunities… Sport is such a phenomenal part of the Dale College story – we will never lose this! How does sport and other extra mural opportunities support the development and schooling of our learners? We must dig into this and deepen the lessons on offer to our learners through these activities.
- But I want to highlight the clause that we have added to this vision statement! I don’t know if it is new, but I think it is very important! We want Dalians to be PROUD of their context. Proud of who they are. Grounded in Xhosa culture, or Islam, or whatever it means to be a Coloured South African’s or a White, English speaking South African. This mixing pot that is South Africa is beautiful. But for too long we have valued only a certain type of person. He who speaks with a certain accent, or comes from a certain type of house, or a certain type of family. Assimilation has been a cancer in our society, and one that I don’t think we have understood well enough. We need Dalians who can look to the future, become educated; specialized, engineers, doctors, teachers, good fathers and husbands; but remember where they come from, cherishing what is good, but remembering that they have a role to play in restoring that which is broken… Being contextually grounded means something for us as a staff – we need to get to the context of our children, and meet them, or develop them FROM their point of need. And for our Dalians, remaining contextually grounded, or being proud of your context, means knowing who you and VALUEING that as a base for who you want to become.
The possibilities locked within this vision excite me massively!
This has been and incredible year, and one that fills me with excitement. In February, I was introduced to the school as the new Principal. The school had survived its way through a significant period of uncertainty, was coming off the worst academic results it had ever produced, and was characterized by poor discipline. I hope that we have turned this tide.
- I spoke to the school last week about that fact that I was developing an unfortuanate nickname because of the fact that we were taking a firm stance on discipline. It is true, and perhaps significant to note that the department has expelled 8 learners from Dale College this year. But until Dale College is a drug-free zone, and Dalians know that Dagga and alcohol, and other social evils, have no place here, we must persevere with this strict clampdown. The fact that learners continue to bring Dagga to school, and use it at school is testament to how entrenched this social evil is in our community.
But let’s focus on the more positive things.
- Our core business is academics. I anxiously await the results of the November examination, but I am excited at the academic turnaround that we are witnessing.
- It is one thing to talk about that fact that we have gone from a 25% failure rate in the 2019 NSC examinations to an 18% failure rate in June to an 11% failure rate in our Gr 12 September examination. But 11% of our matrics failing is still a crying shame, but I hope that we are on the right track to drop this number to zero next year!
- But our measure of academic success must not be in how many kids don’t fail! We need to set a higher standard. It must be in how many can go on to University, and are equipped well enough to succeed at University. To achieve this, we need to strive for quality passes – a mark below 50% is not building any future for anyone. Parent’s, Dalians, do not settle for mediocrity! In this regard, I am thrilled that our matrics have gone from producing 78 subject marks above 70% in June, to 129 marks above 70 in September. This includes an A-symbol increase (marks above 80%) of more than double – from 25 A’s in June to 53 in September. Grade 12’s – all grades really – keep up this improvement! You will pick the rewards of your hard work.
- I want to thank the teachers for your role in this improvement. You have been under pressure this year, from the department, our parents, and me. I salute you for the manner in which you have responded.
We have had to make a number of tough decisions this year. Our facilities, and the concerning condition they are in attests to the need for maintenance. The disuse of the Buster Farrer field above the school, the derelict state of the fence around that facility, the poor condition of paving around the school, the state of our classrooms and Frank Joubert Hostel are going to test our ability to utilize our resources and spend our budget wisely. We have had to cut off the resources that are under-utilised and expensive to maintain. Most significant amongst these is our decision to drain the Olympic size swimming pool which cost us so much but was only utilized by a handful of learners… Please pray for wisdom as we navigate our way out of this tight financial position we are in, and support us where possible. We need to not only be wise in how we spend the limited resources we have, but be creative in developing additional fundraising initiatives.
In another needed step towards reducing our overheads, we made the decision to combine the two hostels that had up until June this year been active. With less than 60 learners in our boarding houses, it was not economically feasible to continue running two hostels. I want to especially thank Mr Sawuti and all hostel staff, and learners for embracing these changes. With all learners in Frank Joubert now, we are able to focus our finances on this hostel, and hope to improve its condition in the next year. We are considering our options to generate income from College House, while we consider how best to utilize this facility in its next season.
Let me mention one more decision that I found incredibly tough to make, especially considering the resistance which was apparent from various circles within the school network and from the wider community. This was regarding the decision to limit the hours of which the Dellwood Pub operated from the Malcolm Andrews Sport Center. At the end of the day, the South African School’s Act is very clear on this, and I am grateful for the support provided by the ODU executive in this decision. The Old Dalian Union, in general, has been incredibly supportive, and it has been inspiring for me to see how the involvement and enthusiasm of old boys around the country has grown as we have progressed through the year. I say over and over to the men of Dale College: “You are part of a legacy greater than yourself at Dale College, make sure that you uphold this legacy!”
When I started in February, I was also astounded to find a school that did not have internet in all its classes, almost no electronic collaboration and resource sharing between colleagues, very little email communication, and very limited use of technology in the classrooms. This was a shock to me! I am convinced that if a learner walks out of school in today’s day and age, and has not been developed in the use of electronic media, or at least been exposed to electronic media, he has been failed by his teachers for realistic participate in any University course. We have addressed this with a first phase of IT installations. Every class in the school has an internet connection, and all teachers wanting Data Projectors, have them. There is more work to be done in fixing our classrooms, but they will become centers of excellence and stimulation – I am excited to see this unfold.
The talent of the Dale College learners also gives me great excitement. From latent leadership ability which seems to bubble under in so many of our learners, to academic and sporting excellence which is just waiting to be refined. We will hear later of some of the academic and sporting achievements of our learners, but it would be remiss of me to not mention two standout performances from 2019.
- Following Craven Week, where three of our learners represented Border, we were thrilled to hear that Indiphile Tyeda, playing in a position unfamiliar to him, had been selected to the SA Schools A team for an international tournament in August.
- And then on the cricket field, Emihle Mqoqi was selected to represent the SA u19 Cricket team, and seems likely to be selected to represent South Africa at the u19 world cup in January next year.
- Congratulations, and thank you gentleman, for the examples of leadership, commitment and hard work you are for our school!
We need to recognize another sporting legend at Dale College at this time. After 12 years of being involved with the coaching of the First Rugby team, not including a year’s break to pursue another opportunity in 2013, we need to greet Mr Grant Griffy Griffiths. My Griffy, as he is affectionately known, has written his name into the annals of Dale College folklore. I battle to believe that a rugby coach can be more loved by his players, or ever be more committed to his players than Mr Griffiths. We are sad to have to greet you, Sir, but we wish you well on your new venture.
While we greet Mr Griffiths, 2019 has been a year of new appointments and, hopefully, new beginning for Dale College as well. Earlier this year we celebrated the appointment of Mr Viwo Nzima to the post of Deputy Principal. Richly deserved, it is also fitting that Mr Nzima, who was the first Black teacher at Dale College, goes on to become the first Black Deputy Principal. Mr Nzima, I want to state in this public setting, that I am deeply in need of your support and leadership as we lead Dale College. I have learnt so much from you already, and am looking forwarding to working very closely with you over the years ahead.
I want to be vulnerable and transparent in this role that I have been entrusted with. I read something on Mr Nkosinathi Biko’s father, Bantu Steve Biko that not only humbled me, but it is forcing me to reflect constantly on the manner in which I lead. Wikipedia explains that Bantu Steve Biko “believed that even when well-intentioned, white liberals failed to comprehend the black experience and often acted in a paternalistic manner.” Ladies and gentleman, I know that my appointment was controversial in a number of ways, but I hope we can represent a successful model of South African leadership. As a white male, schooled after the advent of democracy, I hope to represent a new generation of South African’s, and a new hope in our country. I want to say that I am white, but aware of my privilege. I am young, but not naïve to the generational legacy of discrimination in our country. While I may never truly understand what it means to be Black, or isiXhosa, or to grow up in Ginsberg, or Zwelitsha, or Breidbach for that matter, I am sensitive to learn about the lived experiences of our learners, and I am hopeful that I can still contribute to their future. I hope that my appointment, informed or not by my privilege, will not cause any Black or Coloured learner, or member of staff, or parent or department official to believe that they are inadequate.
And it is on that note that I want to recognize the role that all our staff play in representing the community we serve. I touched on this earlier, but I want to end on it as well. As staff in this diverse community, we are not all able to understand the subtle nuances of the different socio-economic contexts represented by our learners. But together, the wisdom, knowledge, expertise and compassion we need exists in our staffroom. We will find that NEW GREAT for Dale College when we unite in our quest to implement a common vision. Parents, Old Dalian Union, Colleagues from our brother and sister schools, Department of Education, Dale College staff, as well as current Dalians who act as influential peers to each other, we are all included in this! It takes a village to raise a child. Let’s unite in developing the Dale College of the future!