27 May 2015

Letter from the Head – 27 May 2015

Dear Parents

It is not my wont to make a political statement and I hope that this will not be read as one since a political statement takes a side, pushes a point and is, invariably by its nature, somewhat one-dimensional. I trust that those who are analytical will read this accordingly.

Somerset College was honoured to host Mmusi Maimane as the guest speaker at the annual Business Breakfast. Interestingly, Mr Maimane was asked to speak before Helen Zille resigned as leader of the Democratic Alliance. His story was a compelling and inspiring one. He told us that our College is a representation of excellence and he expressed a desire for all schools to be excellent. His argument that “what is wrong can be fixed by what is right” was appealing. If nothing else, Mmusi Maimane presented a message of hope, a message of informed optimism. Inherent in his address was the message to continue to aim to be a College that will be part of a meaningful future.

In spite of having numerous engaging speakers this year for various events and Current Affairs sessions, it was this Business Breakfast talk that has caused certain elements in the press to query our academic process. How intriguing that we should be challenged that we had misused academic time. What a strange thing it is to be questioned by a journalist from a certain Cape Town newspaper over the academic time lost on account of Mmusi Maimane’s visit. I was challenged as to how many DA banners were displayed at the talk. Since it was not a DA talk, it is strange that this should have been a question. How disappointing for the journalist when I had to inform her that no academic time was lost, that no DA banners were present. But also how sad that when the venerable and iconic Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu spoke last year there were no such questions; no interrogation – indeed only a few press representatives were present. Those who were there on that occasion wrote eloquently and poignantly of his visit. I cannot recall if we missed academic time or not but surely one of the aims of education is to broaden the minds of our students by exposing them to different opinions.

One could despair at the narrowness of thinking that requires a banner count; one could fear the fear that generates such narrowness of thought – instead, one can celebrate how wonderful it is to be an independent school that stands for independent thinking.

So thank you to all the parents and guests who attended the Business Breakfast in the Hall. Well done to the students who listened enthralled for the few brief minutes as Mmusi Maimane spoke to them during the usual Tuesday meeting slot, encouraging them to value the gift of the superb education they are getting. How affirming to hear a person of Maimane’s stature applaud good teachers, who indeed arrive at work and give of their best. How inspiring for young people to be encouraged to build their country and to give back to it and to make it a great place by working at least for a period of time in the public sector. Somerset College wants to be part of that dynamic future. Somerset College wants to be an exciting modern school that ensures that its students respond meaningfully to the demanding and enticing future ahead. Somerset College wants students of character to go out into the world, not in fear but in excitement and hope and with a profound ability to discern. Parents and students alike should sense deeply that the College is academically excellent, not only because we achieve outstanding academic results, but also because we have great speakers to challenge us and because we are not confined to a narrow and arid curriculum. I certainly want us to be one of the great schools profoundly relevant for the numerous demands the world will present to our students. We become great and we ensure relevance by thinking critically and challenging all ideas presented to us.

Yours sincerely
Meg Fargher