Founders’ Day John McNaughton Address: Messrs Rodney Inglis & Ben Thompson

Founders’ Day, Friday 14 August 2020: The honour of delivering the annual John McNaughton Address was shared between two stalwart Wynberg staff who leave us this year, Mr Rodney Inglis, Vice-Principal Service, who takes retirement at the end of the 4th Term, and Mr Ben Thompson, Vice-Principal Academics, who leaves us to take up a new position abroad.

Please use the tabs below to read the transcripts: Introduction of the speakers by Mr Moser, and the speeches by Messrs Inglis and Thompson.

Photos of the Ceremony, and the laying of the wreaths, are available on our Flickr channel.

Introduction by Mr Larry Moser, Deputy Headmaster:

This Founders’ Day will be remembered in the way that is is so different from all the others, for many different reasons. But one of them is that today we have two speakers addressing us for the John McNaughton Address.

Mr Rodney Inglis
In 1997, Bruce Probyn appointed a new Afrikaans teacher, who came with a broad teaching experience in both History and Afrikaans. Rodney Inglis soon became an indispensable part of Wynberg and added value to the school in ways we had not even thought of at the time.

Wynberg, like South Africa, was welcoming in a new era, the late Mr Mandela was in the middle of his term of presidency and every facet of South African life was undergoing momentous change. Education was turned on its head, and subjects like History, in particular, underwent a metamorphosis. Rodney was ideally placed to give substance to the new curriculum.

I remember how Kallie Pretorius and Rodney shared the teaching of History in the Grade 9 class, explaining to our mixed multitude how the different sectors of people experienced life in the old South Africa. Each was able to paint a vivid picture of what life was like for those who benefited, and for those who suffered in life under apartheid.

Rodney was very involved in the melding together of the different clubs and school in the Western Province Cricket after 1994. He was actively involved in building bridges and helped in bringing communities together. He has an amazing ability to see life from someone else’s view point and to bring people together who hold disparate views.

He is a genuine people’s person, and seems to know everybody in Cape Town. Rodney has placed his stamp on many areas of Wynberg life. Apart from his teaching duties, he’s worked on creating the school timetable, coached hockey and first team cricket, been a tutor and a House Head, and ended up finally as a Vice-Principal running the service portfolio.

Rodney spent almost a quarter of a century at Wynberg and will be fondly remembered by many Wynberg Men. He always sees the bright side of life and remains positive. In spite of some serious physical ailments through which he has suffered, there is none more affable I would want to have with me on a sports tour as he has a wonderful way of making everyone feel at home, no matter where they are.

Rodney has seen firsthand the changes Wynberg has been through as we moved into the new South Africa and it is only fitting the he addresses us today on his final Founders’ Day as a member of staff.

Mr Ben Thompson
In 2007 a young and enthusiastic Science and Maths teacher joined the Wynberg staff. He was an instant success. Ben Thompson through himself headlong into everything that Wynberg had to offer. He became immersed in the school teaching Science, Maths, Technology, running a tutor group, heading up sports teams and doing outdoor hiking trails, he embraced the Wynberg culture.

14 years later it is true to say he has had a significant impact on the way Wynberg has progressed. Much of the modernisation of the school has been because of his initiatives. He has been at the forefront of the digital revolution regarding education believing we need to prepare our boys for the real world with the use of electronic devices as ubiquitous. He has strengthened our recruitment process, actively seeking to appoint staff representative of the whole of South Africa. He ensured we became a training ground for teachers by implementing an intern programme. He expanded our academic offerings by allowing boys to do an extra subject through to matric.

The Engineering and Design Building currently being built will be his legacy as he wisely advocated and drove the vision for this project.

Ben is a true supporter of Wynberg Boys, he is often seen down at the Jacques Kallis Oval keenly watching our cricketers for an hour or two. Afternoons see him on the Silverhurst Fields chatting to boys as they are put through their paces by the athletics and rugby coaches. Every Saturday he is here watching our sportsmen crafting masterpieces on the green canvas of the Wynberg Fields.

Although Ben is truly and international man, he has embraced Wynberg, and indeed South Africa as his home. In fact, his only faux pas was when he wore a white rugby jersey to school on one particular Friday in November last year.

Everything else he has done has been through his own sacrifice to make life better or easier for others. He has sought to make Wynberg and South Africa a better place.

I can think of no-one better to speak to us on this Founders’ Day than Ben Thompson.

Mr de Waal, colleagues, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen and young men of Wynberg – Good Morning. I would like to start off by thanking the Headmaster and School Management Team of Wynberg for affording me the honour of addressing you today and reflecting on my time at Wynberg Boys’ High School.

Mr Probyn, Headmaster of WBHS at the time wrote in the 1997 magazine: “I think the greatest compliment I could pay the boys, the parents and the school is to tell you that not a single teacher wanted to take the severance package offered by the Department.”

I on the other hand, had other ideas. I was incensed with the Education Department’s rationalisation policies of 1996 in which they had put the livelihood of many young teachers at risk and I opted to take the Voluntary Severance Package, swearing that I would never return to teaching – boy, was I wrong!

After doing what I thought was my duty and assisting the new team at my old school on their way, I soon found myself waking up in the morning, wondering what the devil I would with the rest of the day; that is until I received a call from said Mr Probyn offering me a teaching post at Wynberg.

I had long been in awe of the school having spent almost every Friday of the previous five summers as a regional cricket coach at the Silverhurst nets. The friendliness and outstanding manners of the boys had already made an indelible impression on me. The absolutely fantastic view of the mountain and the grand facilities really appealed to me. But it also, deep down, filled me with anger because “these white folks really had everything.”

So when I received the offer from Mr Probyn, I was torn. I did not accept immediately. My girls had just started at the local High School and as an immediate past leader of the local Teacher Forum, I felt that I would be (being) unfaithful to those teachers who continued to toil, under difficult circumstances, to provide our kids with the best education possible. I knew how many of them made personal sacrifices both financially (teachers would often have to use their own resources to purchase duplicating paper, materials for charts, etc.) as well as time away from their families … and here I was, contemplating moving across to a rich, privileged, “white” school.

I thought about it for a long time and eventually had two choices: accept Mr Probyn’s offer or wait for a possible response from a few applications for jobs in the private sector and risk twiddling my thumbs for the next who knows how many months. I eventually accepted at the eleventh hour and started the 3rd Term of 1997 a couple of days later. It just so happened that I was replacing an old stalwart who would eventually return to the school as Principal, Mr Jan de Waal, who had become Headmaster at Simonstown.

So what has been my experience at WBHS since my arrival 23 years ago? I have been pondering the highlights of my stay at this school and, in browsing the pages of the school magazines of the last twenty years, I realised that writing down every highlight would be an impossible task.

My colleague Mr Hull [ Vice-Principal of Business Operations], the man tasked with quality assurance, among other things, is often heard using terms such as “World Class School” and “Centre of Excellence”.

“We are committed to excellence in every sphere of our school; in fact we are incapable of doing anything in half measures.”

“On the sports front we continue to dominate locally in virtually all sports and nationally with quite a few. Many of our boys have represented our province and our country in sports that our school offers as well as sports not related to our school sports.”

“On the cultural front our actors, debaters and musicians achieved well at Eisteddfods.”

“Academically we continue to expand on achievements …”

No, these are not my words. These are words taken from Mr Probyn’s Headmaster’s Report of my first year at WBHS in 1997.

But those words are as pertinent today as they were 23 years ago. Allow me to again quote Mr Probyn when he said a year later, “Wynberg is secure and as a world class school, pursuing excellence, our place in the history of South African Schooling is firmly placed. There is only one direction that Wynberg’s path must follow, and that is upwards.”

So Cliff, ladies, and gentlemen, nothing has changed. We continue to embrace these sentiments. Mr Richardson and more recently Mr de Waal have been relentless in their pursuit of these values and in my experience, continue in that upward direction – constantly raising the bar ever higher.

Did I say nothing has changed? That is certainly not true. Under the courageous, innovative and inspirational leadership of Mr Keith Richardson, Wynberg has transformed significantly.

Oh boy! Transformation – the one word that evoked many an awkward conversation across the national media recently. When I refer to transformation, I am not necessarily referring to racial transformation, but before I address that issue, let us look at what, very simply, the word means. It means “changing the model” or “a marked change in appearance”. Now we can always change the model or appearance of, for example, a motor vehicle without changing the performance of the car. But at Wynberg we’ve managed to change both the model and the performance.

Now I know that I said earlier that the stand-out moments would be too many to contemplate listing in this address, but it would be remiss of me not to address a few things that have changed or transformed the school over the last twenty years.

Keith [Richardson] recognised the challenge of transformation at a traditional school like Wynberg and managed the process to ensure both excellence and equity with aplomb. He encouraged diversity and navigated the maintenance and enhancements of the good traditions of the school astutely. Being previously oblivious to anything vaguely similar to traditions at schools I attended or taught at, I am now completely sold on them. And we must protect them at all costs because it is those traditions which define our excellence.

A new prefect system was introduced around 2001. Learners voted in elections, unlike the old days when teachers chose prefects. The prefect complement was increased from 17 to 27 giving more boys an opportunity to take on more responsibilities, with that came the chance to improve with the categories of Gold and Silver prefects.

In his quest for excellence while always having the well-being of the boys at heart, Keith spearheaded the introduction of the pastoral system in 2003. This vertical system afforded boys the opportunity to have much closer contact with a mentor / tutor. Boys today feel so much more comfortable engaging with staff on a variety of topics than they were 20-odd years ago. It also saw the advent of the Buddy system which in my opinion put paid to the scourge of bullying at the school. The House system was also changed and three new Houses were introduced.

Also under Keith’s tutelage we also saw the introduction of the Wynberg Way, Wynberg Pass, and Wynberg Brand, and the Grade 8 Blazer Ceremony. These innovations are what set us apart from other schools and place us in a league of our own.

Also during this time was introduced the Grade 8 Challenge and the very exciting moment for the boys of ringing the bell on competition of the challenge as a symbol of their entry into WBHS as boys and brothers, and the ringing of the bell again at Valedictory as a sign of their exit as men of Wynberg and another link in the chain as old boys.

Mr de Waal in his relatively shorter time as headmaster immediately contributed to the enhancement of WBHS as a World Class School and institute of excellence. After the devastating fire in the top C corridor, he initiated the new modern Classrooms, an ongoing project.

Long before the ruckus around ‘Fees Must Fall’ and the ‘Rhodes Must Fall’ movements Mr de Waal initiated Vision 2021 and drove home the importance of social cohesion and diversity in action as integral components of this vision.

Through his foresight supported by the SMT, we initiated the changing of our house names showing the we are sensitive to those issues which others may find troublesome or offensive.

I look forward to coming back to see the completion of another major project that will mark another physical transformation of WBHS – the innovative and future defining Engineering and Design Faculty.

I have left this topic until the end and have decided that I am not going to delve in to the current hot topic of racial transformation. If anybody doubts the sincerity and commitment of Wynberg towards transformation, I would simply sit them down with a flask of coffee and copies of the school magazine for the past 20 years and have them browse the photographs (primary evidence) of staff groups, class groups, tutor groups, sports teams, prefect groups, bands and choirs,and social groups. They do not have to read, they simply have to look at the pictures.

We are also transforming in our attitude towards gender issues and promote a sensitivity towards those with a different sexual orientation to our own.

We are transforming. Transformation is a continuous process.

Supera Moras

Mr Rodney Inglis
Outgoing Vice-Principal, Service

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening, or whenever it is that you happen to click on this YouTube link.

I’m greatly honoured to be invited to address you on such a special day. I’ve had the privilege of speaking from this podium on many occasions over the years and it never ceases to feel very special indeed. So thank you, Mr de Waal for the invitation to address you today.

During times of turmoil and tension you find yourself thinking about the bigger questions “Why am I here? What am I going to be? Will I ever use Pythagoras in real life, ever, really?”

These big questions: “Who am I? What kind of man am I going to be?” will be sounding louder in the minds of our boys right now. Those struggling with online learning or struggling with the self-discipline that is required, for example, you may well be asking yourselves: “What is the point of all of this work? What is the point in this education that I’m trying to moodle-teams-whatsapp make sense of? What is the point of all of this work?”

If you are hearing these questions that are being asked deep back in your consciousness, at the back of your mind, I’d like to share something with you that may help.

I’d like to talk about a lady called Margaret Mead. Her story has cropped up again on social media fairly recently, and I think an anecdote of hers is an important one to share.

She was born in 1901 and became a world-renowned cultural anthropologist. Anthropology is the study of human behaviour, human beings and the societies we create and cultures that come forth from them. Now this story, popularly attributed to Margaret Mead: it is said that one day a student asked her “What is the earliest sign of human civilisation?

So, think what this could be? Is it the time we started farming rather than hunting? Was that the earliest sign of our civilisation? Was it the development of the alphabet and the written word? What about cave paintings or drawing of animals or people, was that the first sign of human civilisation?

Now her answer went back, way, way before any of these. She said, in her opinion, the earliest sign of human civilisation was on a human skeleton from thousands and thousands of years before these events. This skeleton had a healed femur, the thigh bone. Now thinking about it, an animal with a broken bone – that’s a death sentence, you either starve or you get eaten, that’s it, simple. You can make through with a broken finger or two, or a broken nose, but a major bone like a femur, that would be curtains. Now the fact that this bone had healed on an ancient skeleton meant that that human had been cared for, fed, they’d been protected. It had companions that showed care.

So by Margaret Mead’s definition, the very essence of what it means to be civilised is to be of service to others. It is the deepest and most fundamental force that defines our humanity. It’s the difference between us being wild and being civilised.

What is it so foundational in being human, it is not just a platform on which other traits are built upon. Rather, being of service extends through from that foundation to the highest branch of who we are today and what we will become. It is the core of our humanity, and if we are trying to build a better society, the care of others should be our ultimate objective.

So how does this relate to you guys as students? To those of you who’re asking what’s the point in all of this work?

Well, if you’re not bothered about working right now you’re missing out on the opportunity to serve others, and to experience true humanity. If you are working purely for yourselves so you can get a good job, a fancy car, that’s really a bit of a shame, actually, because you’re really missing out on something.

If you are working so you can raise a family and be a good father, you are expressing care for others. If you are working now so you can contribute toward the battle against global climate change, you’re being of service to many of mankind. Others amongst you may be going on to making works of art.  If you do these things you are expressing what it means to be truly civilised, and you are in touch with the core of what it means to be a good person.

That’s the point of all this work right now. So that you can make a difference. So that you can make the lives of others better. So that you can truly experience humanity.

In closing, it has been an honour to have been part of this incredible community, and from me, for the last time, thank you for listening, and Supera Moras.

Mr Ben Thompson
Outgoing Vice-Principal, Academics

The full Founders’ Day Ceremony, with detailed times, is available on our YouTube Wynberg Media channel via the full screen option below:

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