Mr Richardson’s Valedictory Address

Wynberg Boyts' High School Valedictory 2015, Headmaster's AddressI would imagine that our 148 matrics thoroughly appreciate this sentiment: Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!

Being intelligent students of English literature , none of you matrics will need to be told by your English teachers that the quote comes from the English poet William Wordsworth.

The historians among you boys will not need to be told by your history teachers either of the circumstances surrounding these two lines – you all know that it was written at the beginning of the French Revolution when everyone, or at least nearly everyone except perhaps for the French king and his cronies, were excited about a new dawn, a new age, a new era.  Rather like us in 1994, I suspect.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!  Your school career is now over – and many of you will have mixed feelings about that – and ahead of you stretches a lifetime of exciting opportunities, energising challenges and stimulating prospects.

Yet I am sure the paradox of this quote referring to the French Revolution is not lost on anyone here.  Liberty! Equality! Fraternity! – yet there was mass guillotining to achieve this. In 1994 we expressed similar sentiments of excitement here in South Africa which arguably have not yet been realised.

The paradox for the matrics is that they cannot enjoy their new dawn fully until they have successfully negotiated the guillotines of the matric examiners.

There are so many paradoxes in school.  The matric exams insist on the acquisition of knowledge, very important, but we as adults know that wisdom is still the overriding factor.

We encourage individuality, but still stress the paramountcy of uniforms and neat haircuts.

Our country is the same of course.   On one hand we are building malls and waterfronts and on the other we can’t even house all our populace.  We are making huge strides in genetics which results in increased yields of crops and animals, yet more and more people are hungry.

How do we make sense of all this?  How do we hold all these paradoxes in our minds without going crazy?  The answer, I think, is the fact that this school continues to teach values.

Values of our Wynberg Brand which are timeless – relationships, manners, pride, aiming high and resilience or we prefer to call it,  Supera Moras, Never Giving Up.

I have no doubt that we are going to hear today, numerous highlights of the last five years. For years to come – at braai’s, 21st’s, Weddings and Old Boys Dinners, the ageless stories about Mr Creed, your final rugby win over SACS or that amazing cricket win over Grey last week, the antics of James Gilmour in the classroom, the boasting about the 432 kilometres you walked on the Grade Ten camp increasing ten kilometres per year out of school – for years to come, the laughs, the fun and stories will be told and retold.

However, underneath all that are the lessons learnt which will stand you in good stead all your lives. My hope is that we are sending out into the world today, 148 young men who have learnt the value of relationships, the value of curiosity in your academics, the value of the Wynberg Brand, the value of never giving up – and  – the value of making a difference and improving whatever community you are involved.  It is only these values that will give you direction in this world full of paradoxes.

I love looking back to see where you have come from.

In Grade 1, Kyle Tattersall had this piece of his writing in the School Magazine:  Kyle / Boy Earth / happy body bouncing / laughing / sharing / hugging.

It seems a pity that boys have to grow up….

Just listen to the carefree Nishaad Israel:  I swim in the ocean / I swim in the sea / I am a big grey whale / so watch out for me.

Jonathan Lassen showed his pragmatic side from an early age:  One day I was attacked and tied to a pole on a ship.  The captain had one arm and a leg and said:  ‘Join my pirate crew.’

I said ‘No!’  So the captain said:  ‘I will chuck you overboard. ‘

I said:  ‘I’ll join!’

Riyaad Faardiel knew his priorities: ‘ I am proudly South African.  I celebrate national stuff – such as galjoen.’

Jonathan Lassen had high ambitions.  ‘When I am big, I want to be a fireman because you drive a big firetruck and wear special clothes.’

Che Charles, as we have come to know, was very clear in his ambitions.  There was going to be no firetruck for him.:  ‘I want a BMW.  I want two children.’

I am not sure what the car and two children have in common, but with the price of education these days, he might have to scale down from a BMW to a Ford Figo if he is going to afford those two children.

I am trying to work out the significance of this:  ‘One day, I went to a second hand shop and bought a red carpet.  I took it home and sat on it.  It then started to move up into the sky and went over the sea to the jungle.  We picked apples from the trees in the jungle. Then we went up over the moon and came home.’

Well I certainly hope that there are going to be no questions in the matric exams about apples coming from jungles rather than orchards, otherwise Jordan Holgate is going to get really confused. But no doubt he will be over the moon if he does well in the exams.

I loved Shakeel Mohammed’s talking about his real love:  ‘My favourite sportsman is David Beckham.  He is the most famous footballer in the world.  He plays for Manchester United – but I just wish he would play for Arsenal and then he would be really good.’

He didn’t actually say that last bit – but I put it in because I thought it sounded good.

Riyaad Fardiel gave me much material and showed us his true colours:  ‘My name is Cut Throat Jack.  In pirate years, I am 24.  I roam the seas and steal gold.  My ships has cannons.  My cannons are going to kill you.’

Who was your buddy Riyaad – he is probably a nervous wreck at this stage!

Mr Poleman, should I be worried about this latent aggression in Junior School boys?

A few months ago, a Wynberg group went on the White Rhino Trail. Our guide was Mandla Buthelezi and he told us about the Wag ‘n bietjie thorn bush. That is the buffalo thorn bush to you, Mr Thompson.  On the branches of this tree, the thorns are spaced in pairs.  One of the pair points robustly and proudly upwards and forward while the other curves back and inwards in the opposite direction.  He told us that this bush of the African veld tells us something about ourselves – and indeed this is what today’s ceremony is all about.  On one hand you young men are –  proudly and eagerly –  looking forward to the challenges of the future but on the other hand, you must never forget where you have come from.

I would like to thank all the matrics who endeavoured to make the school a better place because they were here – be it in the classroom, on the sportsfields, in the swimming pool, on the stage, in the music rooms, in tutor groups, in sub committees, in service excursions,  in prefect portfolios, in support of their Wynberg brothers in so many activities, in guidance and mentoring of your buddies.

A particular thanks to Almero and Gareth whose fierce determination to uphold standards in every aspect of school life, I came to admire.  They led from the front and this school is a better place because of their leadership and commitment.

I wonder how often I have said to these boys that it is not how you start but how you finish.  In many ways that last match defined the rugby season.  Now these upcoming exams are destined to define your school career.  As I said on so many reports, may you achieve results which will make you proud.  I can say without doubt that I am really looking forward to January 6th. I suspect that the Class of 2015 is destined to make Wynberg proud.

From today, we all wear the same tie.  We are all brothers together in an endless chain.

To you parents, thank you for your leap of faith six years ago when you entrusted these young men to us.  At the Blazer Ceremony in 2011, I said that when the Valedictory Ceremony finally comes, I hope that we can shake hands and say that together WE did a good job. I believe that it takes a village to raise a child and all adults have to act in concert.  A society raises quality young men that way.  I have appreciated your support as we, together with your sons, crossed the bridge from boyhood to manhood.

I am going to leave the final word to Che Charles – who did such an outstanding job as Grade 8 Prefect.  As a 13 year old, he wrote In the 2010 school magazine:  ‘I am a big fish leaving home /  I am moving from Junior School to High School /  I am suddenly not so big / but very very small / What will the future hold for me?  /  I can only wait and see /  I am filled with feelings of mixed emotions / Happy yet sad / upset yet glad / I will face many new challenges /  now is the time to move on.

He could not have summed up the feelings better of today’s matrics.