Chairman’s address Prizegiving address by Nigel Carman 16 October 2015

To our guest of honour, Mr Frederick Swaniker, founder and chairperson of the African Leadership Academy, Ms Deanne King, head of St Mary’s, Mrs Des Hugo and the staff of St Mary’s, colleagues on the Board of the school, and on the Board of the St Mary’s Foundation, parents, friends, girls of St Mary’s and most especially, the matric class of 2015 – welcome to this assembly of the school in celebration of the year that is drawing to a close and the achievements of many girls who, in one way or another, and on their own terms, have excelled.

It is, of course, right that we should celebrate excellence by the giving of awards and prizes. But we should not forget the involvement and achievements of many, many girls not only in the classroom, but also outside it, who may not, tonight, receive an award. Every girl, looking inwards and disregarding the noise of others around her, will be able to recognise her own achievements; and in recognising them will be able to be proud of the person she is. We celebrate also with you.

The girls, supported and encouraged by their teachers, continue to excel in the multitude of activities in which they, and their teachers, engage. By all the local and international benchmarks in which we participate, the standards and results of teaching and learning throughout the school are excellent. In art, music and drama, and in the many co-curricular activities in which the girls participate, they achieve wonderfully. 

The school is financially secure and through prudent management has been able to afford the major infrastructure projects of the past few years. While we do not plan any major infrastructure projects for 2016, the demands of major maintenance must continue to be met and we do need to rebuild our capital reserves so as to ensure that the school has the ability to invest in infrastructure for future generations, just as we enjoy the investment and foresight of past generations.

The school is undoubtedly in a very good place. For this, on behalf of the Board and the whole St Mary’s community, I thank Deanne King and the staff for their committed contribution. To all my colleagues on the Board, thank you also for your support and enthusiasm, and for the diverse special skills and experience which each of you brings so willingly for the benefit of the school.   

Last year, on this occasion, I asked the question: so what makes a great school? How do we know when we have been successful? Is it sufficient to have excellent matric and sporting results? Or is it about the sort of people we help the girls to become when they leave the school? 

One of the outcomes of the strategic planning process in which we have been engaged during the course of the year has been to answer those questions categorically: we must be judged by the sort of people we help the girls to become when they leave St Mary’s.

Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, has written: “Church schools are as concerned as any other school to equip pupils for lives marked by rapid change, global competition and insecurity. But Church schools know in their viscera that this is not just about acquiring skills and good examination results. It is about forming people who have the moral strength and spiritual depth to hold to a course, and weather ups and downs.”

With this in mind, we have placed a strategic focus on the teaching and learning that takes place and the resources, human and other, necessary to achieve our fundamental educational philosophy. The staff are now engaged in the next phase: a process to examine how and what they teach, but most importantly, for what purpose. This process is an ongoing one and I will write more about it in due course.

To the matrics of 2015:

Some 50 years ago, on 28 August 1963, Martin Luther King Junior delivered his extraordinary “I have a dream” speech, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC.

“I have a dream,” he said, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

In a month or two, you will have completed your matric exams and will have left the school. 

My dream, the school’s dream, for you, is that you will have learned here to judge people not by the colour of their skin, nor by their status or possessions, nor by the outward trappings of success, but by the content of their character. Most importantly, our dream is that each of you will have learned to judge your own self, not by the colour of your skin, nor by your status or possessions, nor by the outward trappings of success, but by the content of your character; by the values of honesty and faith, of generosity and compassion, of humility and determination, of self-respect and of respect for others; that you will recognise your privilege and accept the responsibility that goes with privileges. As David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, has written, don’t build your life by being better than others, but by being better than you used to be. Then, you will find within yourselves and, in many ways, by yourselves, the courage to be the person God made you to be. 

Be proud of who you are. Let the school be proud of you, and of what you make of the opportunities and challenges ahead. Go well.

Nigel Carman

Chairman: Board of directors