Head of Senior School, Gill Jeffrey
It is hard to believe how fast time flies by, yet we continue to manage to accomplish so much in so many areas. It is important to take a moment to reflect on just how much we have done or what each of us has accomplished, or how much we have grown within each year. It is a privilege for me to watch the girls in the senior school tackle each year, face obstacles head on and work through them successfully.
Many of our girls take on tough conversations thereby entering a space that will equip them for life after school. This is the kind of skill that grows tenacity, resilience and empathy. Besides our sporting and cultural triumphs which must be acknowledged, the mastery of these characteristics cannot be ignored.
I have taken a deep interest in following thoughts and readings on what the world of work will look like for our girls in the senior school. Girls will need to be flexible enough to reinvent themselves regularly, develop empathy and have the ability to communicate clearly – particularly in terms of dialogue.
I find the analogy of a river useful to illustrate the kind of communication we need to have as we walk this path with our girls. This communication is one of dialogue as opposed to talking to someone. Navigating this uncertain path to the future is not easy, but with good dialogue and willingness to hear one another, we are sure to ‘travel down the river’ in our understanding of one another.
Yuval Noah Harari, in his book 21 Lessons for the 21st Century states, ‘Many experts argue that schools should switch to teaching critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication. More broadly schools should downplay technical skills and emphasise general purpose life skills. The most important would be the ability to deal with change, to learn new things and to preserve your mental balance in unfamiliar situations. To keep up with the world in the future you will need to not merely invent new ideas and new products, but you will need to reinvent yourself again and again and again. The question “who am I” will become more urgent and more complicated than ever before and this causes stress.’ It is also thought that it would be incorrect to suggest that there won’t be enough jobs in the future but rather it will be our inability to reinvent ourselves that could be the reason for us not having a job. This is most certainly not all doom and gloom but rather a very different and exciting future for our girls, in which strong values will play a part.
Along with this ability to reinvent oneself it would be important to embrace understanding, empathy, compassion and dialogue for and with one another as this will be one of the greatest skills sets that will set our girls apart from others in the 21st century.
To the teachers, I salute you. Thank you for caring for our girls well beyond just the academic realm in the classroom. To our support staff and community, each of you plays a vital role in what St Andrew’s is – I thank you!
I am continually impressed by the student councils who provide leadership. The commitment to all spheres of school life is commendable. To those who lead and serve quietly in their own way: this is servant leadership and I thank each of the grade 12s who put up their hands to help without reward.
I would like to end off with some messages from our 2018 Head Girl – Ncumisa Madolo and Deputy Head Girls – Luandri van Vuuren and Jiaming Li:
Ncumisa to the school:
Our theme this year was ‘The future is ours’. There are so many amazing people just like you who care about their community and are working on making a difference. Rapelang Rabana is a computer scientist and entrepreneur who founded Rekindle Learning, a technology company that aims to make internet learning accessible to all South Africans. Her inspiration and drive can be an inspiration not only to the matrics but to all sitting in the hall this evening.
Luandri to the grade 11s:
Dr Margaret Chan was the Director-General of the World Health Organisation from 2006 to 2017. Her guidance in controlling various global health pandemics secured her a place on the Forbes top 30 list of most influential women. She stated, ‘The multiple roles that women can play in our society if given the opportunity is a tremendous asset.’ I think the grade 11s of this year embody this statement. You can bring together your various talents and collaborate in such a way to make a meaningful impact next year.
Jiaming to the grade 8s:
Angela Merkel was the first female Chancellor of Germany, elected in 2005 and is currently serving her fourth term. Merkel, the youngest elected Chancellor was constantly challenged but defied all who doubted her. She started small but never let that define her and I believe that the grade 8s have shown what true bravery and perseverance is all about.