Thursday 21 October 2021: Valedictory Guest Speaker’s Address, by Wynberg Old Boy Mr Hishaam Davids.
Good afternoon. I’d like to start off by saying that I am incredibly honoured to be standing before you here today. Whenever I get invited back to my old school, I always jump at the opportunity.
I would also like to mention that this is probably going to be the most unconventional speech you will hear today.
I sat long and hard and thought about what I wanted to say… and to be honest, I’d like to stay away, as far as possible, from being cliché. The last thing I want to do is bore you by speaking about the impact of covid-19 and wishing you luck for the future.
So, I’m going to speak from my heart, which is where this school lies. This leads me to a disclaimer: I apologise if at any time I shed a tear while I am standing here. I am quite emotional.
Going back to the impact of covid-19 – don’t get me wrong, it is a major factor for everyone. Loved ones were lost and it literally changed people’s lives. But it’s been almost two years and we’ve adapted to a new normal. So, all I’m going to say is well done for staying the course. You see, we are Wynberg Boys. We welcome challenges.
I want you to think back to a time before covid – 2017, your year in grade 8. When you didn’t have to loaf at the tuck shop and your mom still packed your lunchbox with a 5-course meal plus a boxed juice and a yoghurt. Do you still have the same best friend? Are you still as shy as you were back then? Do you remember the greatest legend Wynberg has ever produced? Uncle Cecil. [School Caretaker, Mr Cecil Malan] May he rest in peace.
When I think back to 2010, which was when I was in grade 8, one fond memory stands out the most. Now for those of you who don’t know, I had one job at school… and that was to jol, more commonly known as dancing. I had to bring the gees when there was no gees. If matrics saw me walking in the corridor, they’d say: “Staggie, jol!”, and I had to dance right there without any music.
Anyway, in grade 8, we used to have a prefect’s assembly where no teachers were present. It was basically a ‘fun’ assembly as a reward on a Wednesday. They announced that there was going to be a dance battle for matrics. So there I was, fresh from junior school, and I thought to myself: No one knows me. Here’s the perfect opportunity for me to make a name for myself. So, I looked at my friend and I knew I had to do this. I walked up on stage in my Grasshoppers and I started gooi-ing these wild moves.
I was expecting a golden buzzer but when I looked up, all I saw were 800 boys staring in confusion. I quickly left the stage and I was sad the entire day. Although, I was proud of myself.
Now I’m not saying that this school gives you the confidence to do anything you want to. Think of it as an institution that intuitively equips you with whatever you need to be great.
I recently read through the 2014 school magazine and I came across the headmaster, Mr Keith Richardson’s message. He mentions that someone told him that Wynberg has been around for a long time… And then they asked, “But how could you tell if your school was significant in South African society today?”
So, he discusses 5 points in response to this person’s question:
- Firstly, a school of significance has to have an impact on people’s lives.
- Secondly, a school of significance has to capture hearts.
- It must not pretend to be something that it is not.
- A significant school must be aspirational, meaning that it should always be striving to improve.
- And finally, a significant school must be like an old friend who is always there to help them through the good times and the bad.
He then goes on to say: “No amount of advertising can ever replace the demeanour of a Wynberg man – the way he conducts himself in public and in private; the commitment with which he approaches every task. This is the trademark of a Wynberg man.
It’s been 7 years since I last walked in these corridors, and I would redo it in a heartbeat. Since school, I’ve had friends who have gotten married, some have kids, and there are also some we’ve lost along the way. Because of this school, I have friends who I’ve known for 19 years now.
Initially, I did not want to share this with you because I am not someone who likes the pity of other people. The rugby boys will know what I am speaking about because I shared it with them at the beginning of the season. But I could not think of a better way to explain how much this school means to me.
Last year, I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkins lymphoma. It’s the cancer of your lymphatic system. Apparently, if you could choose which cancer to have, it would be this one because it isn’t as bad as the others. But nevertheless, it was cancer.
So, I was scheduled to undergo 6 months of chemotherapy. I completed it and I am healthy now. However, even though my cancer wasn’t as bad as other cancers, I still went through a rollercoaster ride until I reached remission. It definitely wasn’t easy. But the moments in my life leading up to that point, and my school could not have prepared me any better. You see, we are Wynberg Boys. We welcome challenges.
When I found out about my diagnosis, I didn’t think about anything else. My mind was blank and I accepted that for the next 6 months, I’d have to put everything on pause. My first chemo session was fine. All I felt were needles and mild nausea.
It wasn’t until my 2nd session when every part of my body was trying to tell me that I should escape from the hospital and go for a swim or something. I had experienced all the effects of chemo.
So, at my 3rd session, I went to hospital and sat in the waiting room, waiting to be called. A couple of minutes passed. I got up and ran out of the hospital. I escaped. The hospital staff ran after me and waited patiently while I sat outside.
After some time, I calmed down and went back in. A nurse called me into a room and tried to convince me to continue, but I couldn’t hear a thing she was saying. I didn’t want chemo anymore. Until she stopped and asked, “How can you give up so easily?”
It was like a trigger that instantly reminded me of what I had learnt for 12 years at this school. Supera Moras. Never give up. I promise you, I walked into the ward like Rambo walking into a gunfight.
Suddenly, I remembered who I was and where I came from. I come from a school of significance. I come from a school that makes an impact on people’s lives. I come from a school that captures hearts. A school that is aspirational and doesn’t pretend to be something it is not. I come from a school that is an old friend. A place that I can look up to in my time of need.
I come from Wynberg Boys’ High School, an endless chain of brothers who are spectacular people.
That is what this school means to me. It is a space where I have made life-long friendships and endless memories. A place I call home. And today my brothers, it is your turn to say goodbye to this special place. I hope you know that you now join a band of 1000’s of old boys who know and care about you.
Although it might seem like a superiority complex, it isn’t. It’s just the way things are. Wynberg men are special people. The best kind of people.
It was just the other day when I walked down the hall of my valedictory ceremony, with my arm around Mr Ighlaas Saiet. Time flies by, and it’s important to appreciate the little things in life. I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks with you at the beginning of this year. You are a special group of boys and I am proud to call you my new brothers.
Those of you who are going to study next year, those of you who are going straight to work, to the boys who take 3 taxis to school, to those who make Tiktoks and to those who don’t know what to do next year… whenever you find yourselves in times of doubt, and wherever you are in the world, remember that you are part of a family of brothers. You are part of a school of significance.
The next few years of your life are crucial in terms of finding yourself and deciding on your place in this world. Do not let the pressures of adulthood consume your thoughts. You are young and your life is meant to be lived. I would wish you well for the upcoming exams, but I know that you will do well. You see, we are Wynberg Boys. We welcome challenges.
If there’s one thing I’d like you to take from what I’ve just shared with you, it is this: passion drives success. No matter what you do, always make sure that it is your passion, and everything else will follow. You have a bright future ahead of you.
Life is not about how many breaths you take. It is about how many of life’s moments take your breath away.
Supera Moras my brothers.
Wynberg Old Boy, Class of 2014