From the headmistress’s desk: 31 May 2019

Dear parents

It is not always easy to make connections among the different events happening at and around school, and last week was no exception: the culmination of our IQAA evaluation (as described in the Senior School newsletter by Deanne King), the inaugural Maxeke-Mgqwetho annual lecture hosted in The Edge on Thursday, the SAGSA conference offsite, Friday’s Senior Primary assembly with a visiting speaker, and Saturday, Africa Day, with its packed programme of Little Saints sports day, the Junior Primary fun day, netball matches and rhythmic gym competitions – not to mention the presidential inauguration. This week’s Patronal Festival Eucharist and picnic, at which we commemorate the school’s 131st birthday, could be viewed as an opportune moment to catch our breath and give thanks for what has gone before, as well as to look forward to what is still to come.

It helps that the number the school is turning this year is significant, but odd: it lends itself to celebration of a more unusual nature. Like the women whose largely unheard voices Gcina Mhlophe conjured on stage last Thursday, 131 is “too much”; on the wrong side of 130. It seems exorbitant, as if its sole purpose were to point to the more symbolically forceful numbers we choose to highlight on either side of it. At the risk of sounding absurd, it is precisely this notion of the extraneous, the superfluous and the digressive that I wish to bring into sharper focus now.

It is easy to lose sight of the value that such interstitial activity brings in a programme of planned events: the discussions that happen in the classroom but that do not have a measurable outcome in homework or assessments; the rehearsals and training with teachers, coaches and peers that narrow into performances and matches; the work done by staff, parents and girls before and after the main event, as well as the spontaneous play between children of all ages that runs parallel to everything we do. What place do we give to these before, after and by-the-way interludes that constitute the daily life of the school and extend beyond it in ways we cannot articulate with ease?

The thought crossed my mind several times last week, but one example drawn from a packed itinerary will do: in Friday’s Senior Primary assembly we were fortunate (through the welcome interventions of a parent in the Junior School) to host accomplished South African-Jamaican London-based musician and composer Matshidiso Mohajane, whose academic background is in human rights law. Matshidiso addressed the girls, showed us a music video, answered questions and performed part of her latest single. She enjoyed a natural rapport with the girls and their admiration for her musical gifts was obvious; what stayed with me was the picture of them sitting in the hall, eyes trained on the screen, as she transported them, through soulful music and black-and-white imagery, to their own city. The video, Running, features Matshidiso jogging through various parts of Johannesburg, more or less familiar to the girls. Watching the video in her presence, seeing their city as a location for stories and as a place of storytelling, is something I wish they will take from this experience, and never forget.

Before closing, I want to extend my thanks to all the staff and parents who supported the Little Saints sports day and the Junior Primary fun day, especially those of you who gave your time on fun fay, before and after, to ensure that the event ran smoothly, looked beautiful and made our families happy. The rag-tag group of children who played on while their parents, including teachers, tidied up and took stock of the day, long after all the stalls had closed and as the shadows lengthened across the Junior School Close, deserve our thanks as well – they had such fun.

Dr Sarah Warner
Headmisstress: Junior School