Thank you to all the parents who attended Founders’ Day. Celebrating the birthday of our school is a joyful event and everyone’s presence at this celebration goes a long way to entrenching all that is good about the intentions of those brave parents who decided to create a beautiful school in the Helderberg basin. I hope they look on their initial work with deep pride and a sense of achievement. Present parents and staff are custodians of that hard work and it is important that we build on the original vision and develop the College into one of the great South African schools relevant for the times.
Coming soon after the closing sounds of Founders’ Day were fading was the final report on the whole school evaluation from IQAA. The very positive comments in the report metaphorically augmented the founding vision. Thank you to those parents who engaged in the process and returned evaluation forms. Mrs Janine Tessendorf oversaw the process and she was assisted in particular by Mr Coenraad Walters and also Mr Gareth Tucker, Mr Graham Sayer, Mrs Mandy Gibson, Mrs Elmari Botha and Mrs Antoinette Beck. The tasks required by IQAA were completed after hours and during school holidays, so we are grateful to the staff for putting the College first. To quote directly from the final report: Somerset College provides a most conducive atmosphere for teaching and learning …[The College] is a very happy, vibrant and productive school, and it is indeed inspiring to consider that in its relatively short existence of under 20 years, it upholds a reputation of excellence in education in our country.Thank you to those of you who continue to help the school flourish and thrive and I hope that you will return to a Founders’ Day in years to come and be proud of your contribution to the next phase of the life of Somerset College.
On a thornier topic, I am compelled to write about the problem of adolescent drinking and parties that seem so easily to get out of hand. Neither the teachers nor I wish to police weekend behaviour; nor do I have the right to tell parents how to parent. However, it cannot be denied that it will be a sad day when careless attitudes towards alcohol and drugs lead to a tragedy at a party.
In an excellent recent letter to the St John’s parents, the Headmaster, Mr Paul Edey, wrote about this same issue that seems to be plaguing our young people. Underage drinking has been a concern for decades, but the type of alcohol abuse seems to be more problematic. Paul Edey suggests that some boys see drinking excessively as a rite of passage into adulthood.
No school Head wishes to dictate how a parent should conduct parenting but surely there is a common aim with parents in raising responsible citizens who are capable of entering society complete and confident in themselves. Our task is to work together and to raise young men and women who are strong characters able to make wise choices. With the obvious dearth of capable, strong leadership in our country the task is even more important.
Furthermore, the problem is not just a “boy issue”. Young girls are finding themselves in compromising situations because they have had too much to drink. The aftermath on a Monday morning very much becomes a school issue as shame turns to blame.
Drugs and alcohol are banned at school and during school outings such as sports tours and outdoor events. We cannot find it acceptable if children bring illegal substances to school or on camps and there have to be severe consequences for those who do. Older children who encourage younger, under-age children to drink are at risk of being criminally liable for doing so. There is no point in pontificating about the issue – it is simple. Drinking under the age of 18 is illegal. Serving alcohol to children under the age of 18 is illegal. One can make it a moral or ethical issue, but the bottom line is that it is a legal issue. Parents who allow alcohol at parties where there are children under the age of 18 are infringing the law.
Next term, Old Oak parents, whose daughter died of a drug overdose, have asked to speak to parents and I encourage you to attend that talk as there is a lot for us to learn about the dank and dark world of drugs. Helping other parents to avoid the pain they have suffered has become their raison d’etre.
Thank you for caring enough to read this newsletter and I hope we can work together to ensure that young people flourish.