Wednesday 21 October 2020, Hawthornden Field
Good morning special guests, staff, parents, the Grade 8 and 11 classes, but most particularly the WBHS 2020 Matric Class who are the focus of my address today.
When we attended our Leadership Seminar in October last year who would have guessed what lay ahead for us in this crazy year. In fact, thinking back, you young men have had a crazy high school career: a fire in 2016 (two fires if you were in Littlewood) a storm that forced the closure of schools in 2017, a drought in 2018, and a pandemic in 2020.
You certainly have seen it all!
It is not necessary to spell out the details but what is important is how we responded. I came across this quote recently from Robert Jordan: “Humankind is made for uncertainty, struggle, choice, and change.”
You certainly proved this to be true and I want to pay tribute to you as a collective for the amazingly positive and constructive way you have coped this year. Despite overwhelming odds, you have managed to cope remarkably well academically. (possibly, because you had fewer distractions …) I said to you on Monday that I believe you are still on track to be the first Wynberg class to achieve a 100% Bachelor Pass rate. This is very achievable if everyone uses the next two months wisely by staying healthy and doing the necessary preparation. Do not get yourself lulled into a false sense of security based on your prelim results.
Although it has been mentioned earlier, I also want to congratulate this class for the mature and empathetic way they responded to the Gender-Based Violence crisis last year, and the Black Lives Matter groundswell in 2020. Taking on these issues and discussing how they affected you showed tremendous maturity.
We have all heard of the negative effects of the pandemic such as corruption, unemployment, poverty, travel bans, etc. There has also been widespread confusion around issues related to Covid 19 such as actual death rates, whether lockdowns – wearing of masks, closure of public places, etc. – are effective, and even more disturbing stories that the entire pandemic is in fact a cover-up for the roll-out of more sinister agendas.
So the question is whether amongst all this negativity, is there anything positive we can take out of this year? I thought this anonymous Christian quote might give us some encouragement: “Sometimes it is hard to see the hidden sunshine behind the dark clouds. But, with firm conviction of hope, faith, and time, the sunshine will brighten the World all over again!”
I asked my friend Google for assistance and here are a few positives:
1. Strengthening of personal and family relationships
2. Positive lifestyle changes. (personal hygiene and spread of disease)
4. New cost-effective ways of doing business
5. Development of new software
6. Revolutionised education
7. Environmental benefits (reduction of air and water pollution/fewer cars on the road etc.)
8. Changes in personal behaviour (less waste, saving, self-discipline, and self-reliance)
It might be a good thing for us all to sit quietly and draw up our own list of how we personally benefitted from this pandemic.
To me, there is however one key negative that has occurred this year which is going to affect you, your families, and future generations if you are not aware of, and do not act against the dangers it entails.
We all know about the historic ongoing struggle waged by people all over the world, including SA, to acquire our basic human rights. These rights are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations in 1948 and in the South African Bill of Rights (Chapter 2 of the SA Constitution of SA) adopted in 1996.
My concern is that during this pandemic, throughout the world, we have seen these hard-won rights surrendered to central governments without a whimper. Now it is common knowledge that once citizens surrender their rights and freedoms to a government it rarely gives these rights back voluntarily. Reading the SA Bill of Rights will give you an idea of what rights we have surrendered since March 2020.
7 (1) This Bill of Rights is a cornerstone of democracy in SA. It enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of Human dignity, equality and freedom.
7 (2) The state must respect, protect, promote, and fulfill the rights in the Bill of Rights.
In my opinion, the citizens of this country are being deprived of their basic rights and freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
What have we lost:
12 (1) Everyone has the right:
(a) not to be deprived of freedom arbitrarily or without just cause.
12 (2) Everyone has the right:
(b) to security in and control over their body and;
(c) not to be subjected to medical or scientific experiments without their informed consent
14 Everyone has the right to privacy, which includes the right not to have –
(a) their person or home searched;
(b) their property searched
(c) the privacy of their communications infringed
15 (1) everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion;
16 (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes –
(a) freedom of the press and other media;
(b) freedom to receive or impart information of ideas;
(d) academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.
17 Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to picket, and to present petitions.
18 Everyone has the right to freedom of association
21 (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement
21 (2) Everyone has the right to leave the Republic
21 (3) Every citizen has the right to enter, to remain in, and to reside anywhere in the Republic
22 Anyone has the right to choose their trade, occupation, or profession freely.
24 Everyone has the right –
(a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being
27 Everyone has the right to –
(a) health care services …
(b) sufficient food and water, and
(c) social security, including, if they are unable to support themselves and their dependents, appropriate social assistance.
31 (1) Persons belonging to a cultural, religious … community may not be denied the right …
(a) to enjoy their culture, practice their religion …
32 Everyone has the right of access to –
(a) any information held by the state;
33 (1) Everyone has the right to administrative action that is lawful reasonable and procedurally fair,
33 (2) Everyone whose rights have been adversely affected by administrative action has the right to be given written reasons.
Today you have been charged by the school and our Old Boys’ Union to make certain undertakings governing your behaviour and actions in the future. I end off my address to you with a charge of my own:
I charge you to use every opportunity available to petition for the return of the rights and freedoms the citizens of our country and the world have surrendered to global and national governments.
I charge you oppose in every way lawfully possible the further impingement of our basic human rights and freedoms.
I conclude by wishing you all the best of luck in your final examinations. I have high hopes that we will reach new heights.
I also wish you a safe and happy future in which you and your families are able to fulfill your dreams in peace and freedom and live as sovereign beings.
Jan H. de Waal