From the Junior School head's desk: 22 February 2024

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There are days at St Mary’s that you would not want to miss for all the world. The installation of Seipati Shiakallis as headmistress of the Senior School was one of these days – and from my vantage point in the body of the chapel and, later, in the theatre at The Edge, I want to make the outrageous claim of the eyewitness that “I saw everything!” Sitting among a mixed audience of Seipati’s family and friends, colleagues from St Mary’s (past and present), heads from other schools, ISASA representatives, Board members and girls, it was my good fortune to feel and move with the crowd as we responded with words, song, prayer and applause to the ritual taking place – and filling every place – before our eyes.

The installation service has all the solemnity and rapture of a marriage ceremony and, like a marriage ceremony, it invites similar reactions from the congregation: I found myself craning my neck to catch a glimpse of Seipati as she made her way to Bishop Steve at the chapel altar for the service of commitment – and who will ever forget the sight of her and the Bishop kneeling together on the stage at The Edge, the soles of her red shoes turned towards us, as he admitted her to the office of St Mary’s Senior School headmistress? Not the girls, I can assure you. Mme Thandi never did finish her sentence about the historic appointment of Mrs Shiakallis; the girls’ spontaneous cheers finished it for her.

Head girl, Nalenhle Mbatha, ended her speech by telling Mrs Shiakallis how proud the girls are of her. This is a school where girls are proud of women, and where we ask God for understanding hearts to judge and discern between good and bad. This is a school where people want to serve, and the cause is clear: all of those asked to speak, including Seipati herself, spoke of girls’ education and

St Mary’s substantial and vibrant commitment to its continuation. This is a school where we want girls to put their minds to everything they can. In the words of Seipati’s favourite author, Doris Lessing, “Think wrongly, if you please, but in all cases think for yourself.”

I want to be in that number…


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