From the Junior School head's desk: 10 November 2023


Last week, the St Mary’s community grieved the sudden passing of Mr Masibonisane Javu, a member of our support staff. Mr Javu was a familiar face and figure in the Junior School: he spent many hours working in our section of the campus, his tall form bent over the well-maintained environmental garden in the courtyard outside the Art room. In a recent edition of this newsletter (29 September) the Junior School diversity committee paid tribute to Mr Javu’s “diverse talents and passions” making special mention of his “green fingers”, his unerring ability “to coax life from the soil” and grow everything “from sunflowers to prize-winning radishes”.

On our return to school from half-term last Tuesday morning the Senior Primary girls, teachers and other staff members from the Junior School attended an impromptu prayer service for Mr Javu led by Revd Rakgadi. The girls observed a minute of silence, and we asked them to remember Mr Javu, his mother, Mom Kate (who looks after Mackenzie boarding house) and his family, in their prayers.

I spoke briefly about what the loss of Mr Javu meant to our community and Mr Jansen van Vuuren and Mrs Smith read from The Bible. Mr Potgieter accompanied our singing on the piano. The mood in the hall was sombre but the feeling was one of collective grief and togetherness. Later that evening, I was glad to receive a mail from one of our parents confirming my impression of the gathering and its significance for the girls.

This is such sad news. I had not caught up with emails and therefore heard the news from the girls during dinner. Mr Javu (and his mom) were in [my daughter’s] prayers as she prayed for our meal this evening. It was so moving but so good to see that the kids see themselves as part of a community.

St Mary’s hosted a memorial service for Mr Javu in our chapel last Friday, which was attended by his colleagues across the whole school, a small group of our matric leaders for next year and some members of his family. The eulogies spoke of a man who was a willing team player and a hard worker who took his responsibilities as a son and a father seriously.

Mr Javu was described by his colleagues and family as a sociable young man with a wry but generous outlook on life – everyone mentioned his extraordinary height. Along with other members of the community, I heard for the first time that his nickname was “giraffe”, and Ms King remarked on the aptness of the epithet in her tribute as we all pictured Mr Javu’s graceful, diffident presence on campus. She also spoke, poignantly, about the human tendency to carry on seeing someone long after they are gone. I encounter Mr Javu still in the staff parking and the Junior School gardens. I find myself pausing at the vegetable garden to discuss the progress of the seedlings and his plans for next season’s crop while we commiserate about the unexpected cold weather and his troublesome shoulder.

In words chosen by Revd Rakgadi and read at Mr Javu’s memorial service: […] we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4: 16–18)

We do not lose heart.


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