From the Junior School head’s desk

Sarah Warner

We could call this week momentous, depending on our definition of the word. Our matrics finished writing their examinations on Wednesday – the same day the Grade 7s attended their Valedictory service and day-long picnic – and Mandate Molefi concluded the focus groups they have run in our community with the Old Girls, pupils, teachers and parents. That these events are important seems to me beyond question. That they will have significant bearing on the future is, mostly, cause for celebration.

The urge to look ahead into the new year and leave the travails of 2020 far behind us is great, but it is what we choose to take forward, and how, that will determine the quality of our experiences and encounters, as well as the choices we make in 2021. We have spoken at length about the losses endured this year, especially by the girls, and the temptation to dwell on the list of cancelled events and curtailed activities persists. In this version, an undeniably compelling one, the past months constitute a time of deprivation and enforced gratitude borne out of painful recognition of what we once had, and what we have lost.

In another version of the story, one that I hope will gain momentum as we learn to cast a more critical eye on what has been, the year has presented us with an incredible – in the sense of “not to be believed” – opportunity to liberate ourselves from hidebound habits and ways of thinking. This is not an original view; it has been peddled by self-help gurus and influencers all over the world. The careful application of the idea in schools, in our school particularly, is what could yield remarkable results. One small, relatively uncontentious example from this week presents itself for discussion: the Grade 7 Valedictory celebrations. This year, owing to our sensible and successful compliance with Covid-19 protocols and precautions, the Junior School could not host the usual Valedictory dinner on campus. Over the years, the event has grown from an outing to the theatre with the girls and their teachers, to a dinner hosted on campus for the girls, their parents, and the teachers, to a carefully curated experience designed to meet the ever-evolving expectations of our community.

I loved the dinner last year, especially as it was hosted in the Junior School, and because we took the decision to allow the girls to dress in civvies. I loved it, and I shall continue to look back on it fondly, but what I saw on Wednesday when almost all of our girls came to school in shorts and t-shirts, participated respectfully in their chapel service, and then spent a day playing – yes, playing – and picnicking on the campus, startled me into thinking that maybe we have been getting the celebration wrong. And that impulse – to pause and observe with newly peeled eyes – is what we need to honour, as teachers and parents who have watched our children make something of this year, which we could never have imagined, even in our wildest grown-up dreams.

Dr Sarah Warner
Headmistress: Junior School

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