Jan de Waal’s Last Assembly as Headmaster: Farewell to the Boys

Tuesday 7 December 2021: The end of the school year and the closing days of our 180th founding celebrations, and our 14th Headmaster, Mr Jan de Waal, delivers his final address to his charges. Wynberg Boys’ High School thanks him for his astute leadership throughout his six years at the helm of one of South Africa’s greatest schools.

Mr De Waal’s address to the boys, including the ‘Wynberg Badger’ video:

This is my second last speech at Wynberg and it is my opportunity to say farewell to the most important constituency of the school, the students of Wynberg Boys’ High.

Now, you might not realise it, but today we have something in common. I hate public speaking and you hate long assemblies. So I promise to try to put us both out of our misery as quickly as possible.

It is common knowledge that during my time as headmaster of this great school that we’ve faced a number of unexpected challenges. It started during the taxing 175 celebrations with two fires in the space of three months, followed the next year by a storm that closed schools across the Peninsula, then the drought, and the final cherry on the top, almost two years of Covid.

Thus, it will be true to say that it was a challenging six years. So how did I manage?

Well, I would never have coped if it was not for the tremendous support of the staff at the school, you have a wonderful staff, gentlemen. Always willing to go the extra mile for you, and this is as it should be. After all, we are appointed to help you achieve your full potential, not only academically but in all aspects of school life, and in life in general. I take this opportunity to thank the staff, on your behalf and mine, for the outstanding job they do, day in and day out, and very often night in and night out as well.

And then there is the heart and soul of the school, you the students. The most notable thing about Wynberg Boys’ High School is the incredible spirit of our boys. It is infectious and inspirational and that is what inspired me to come to work every day, to watch all those sports matches, and attend all those cultural and service events. The Wynberg “gees” is legendary and truly something special that you cannot understand unless you experience it.

When trying to describe this spirit you will hear comments such as “they never give up, they have an incredible fighting spirit, they support each other, they always try their best”. These are all qualities that we include in our understanding of our Motto: Supera Moras.

But to me, the Wynberg spirit is more than that. There’s a video I saw recently that reminded me what a real Wynberg man is like. Wynberg Men do not just overcome adversity, they thrive in adversity and turn situations to their advantage when faced with tremendous odds.

The creature that stars in this video is a badger, its colouring of black and white reminding me a bit of our navy and white sporting colours. You will see the badger caught in the grips of a python trying to slowly squeeze the life out of it while it tries desperately to break free. Suddenly two jackals appear and momentarily distract the python, giving the badger the opportunity to escape. Now, this is where I think the badger really shows the true Wynberg character. You would think that after escaping from such a deadly situation the badger would get away from there as quickly as possible. No, it starts attaching the python, eventually killing it and dragging it off into the bushes as its next meal, whilst at the same time fighting off the two jackals who also want to share the spoils:

To me, this badger-like approach is exactly how Wynberg has responded to the various crises we have faced together over the last six years. We have not just overcome these challenges but in most cases turned them to our advantage. Here at Wynberg and in the future, you will face many challenges, some seemingly impossible to overcome. When you find yourself in such a position I want you to think of the badger. Never give up, overcome the challenge, and use it to your advantage.

I wish this great school Wynberg Boys’ High School, as well as every one of you, the very best.

I look forward to many years of singing our school song together:

Supera Moras Makes Us One.

Jan de Waal
14th Headmaster, Wynberg Boys’ High School

To Mr & Mrs De Waal, a quote from the writings of Richard Bach:

Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes, a farewell is necessary before you can meet again, and meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.

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