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From the editor

| November 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

At the recent ISASA conference held on 7-10 September 2013 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, member schools and invited guests paid tribute to Jane Hofmeyr for her leadership of the organisation as she exits formally at the end of the year to pursue other projects. Independent Education would also like to say farewell to Dr Hofmeyr.

A member of the ISASA Publications board and editorial panel for many years, we thank her for the indefatigable enthusiasm she brought to every meeting, ever-watchful that the magazine should represent the rich and growing diversity of its member schools. The conference was an opportunity for ISASA school board members, management teams and teachers to gain insight from speakers like Pat Bassett, recently retired executive director of the American National Association of Independent Schools.

Perhaps even more importantly though, it was a chance for colleagues to connect. I was delighted to see my ‘old’ headmistress, who put up with my many shenanigans at the Diocesan School for Girls in Grahamstown years ago, and who mentored me with humour and patience when I myself became a teacher under her headship. She was fond of quoting from the podium during assemblies warnings like “It only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole barrel” (was she really looking straight at me?), but her favourite caution came from that wonderful children’s book The Water Babies, by Charles Kingsley as she urged us to be more like the character Mrs Do-as-you-would-be-done-by. It’s such a simple sentiment. Looked at another way, said several conference speakers, schools are essentially about contact and context, a point reinforced by many contributors – several of them new ISASA members – to this edition of the magazine.

Where are you as a school, ask these writers – morally and geographically – and what can you do to reach out as far as possible to share and extend a positive influence? While school-leavers have indicated a growing disillusionment with corruption in this country, says Lauren Tracey, from the Governance, Crime and Justice Division at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, “there is certainly a pressing need for aggressive voter education to get the youth to register to vote and make their mark.”

Deciding to get up and be a part of positive social change depends on how you are ‘done by’ at school, or the nature of leadership to which you are exposed. Says Sharon van Reenen at Uplands College in White River in Mpumalanga, students must be taught to “contemplate the right questions, such as do I respect other people? Do I trust them to achieve something meaningful? Do I inspire hope and vision in a team? Do I value inclusiveness, and who do I influence, why and how?” Adds Van Reenen, “Where safer to flex one’s muscles, make errors and learn from them than at school?”

On page 46, Susan Stos, author of a new series on the teaching and learning of ethics, agrees. “If our aim is to create authentic leadership among the youth – leadership that is based on morality and conviction – ethics must be a substantial component,” she observes. Katy Mthethwa from St Peter’s Boys School, adds on page 45 that “third order change is where we engage in transformational change.

This is change at its deepest level. We change at our very core. As a result, the outcomes of what we do are significantly altered.” And perhaps after reading Don Duffield’s article on page 56, you will inspired to join the growing group of teachers who “emphasises the need to develop systems citizens, who will not only see the world as an enormous, highly sensitive system but will also act morally and ethically in the decisions they make concerning the environment and use of the finite resources of the earth.” Ethics must be turned into action for children to understand the phrase “Do-as-you-would-be-done-by”, say Karen Symons and Annette dos Santos from St Andrew’s School for Girls in Senderwood, Johannesburg, which has grown its Ubambiswano outreach programme exponentially to the point where it can say that “St Andrew’s is a school that cares not only for its immediate community, but also for the communities around it”.

Of course there is abundant evidence to suggest that finding the time or stamina to teach ethics or act in loco parentis is simply beyond the reach of many of our teachers. In fact, Nicholas Spaull, part of the Research on Socioeconomic Policy (ReSEP) group in the Economics Department at Stellenbosch University, makes the bold assertion that thousands of South African schools are “academically bankrupt”. In his fascinating article on page 26, Spaull maintains that post-apartheid in-service teacher training has not worked because there is too little transfer from training to classroom practice. It’s easy to feel downcast when presented with such facts. But editing this magazine is a hopeful enterprise, in large part because Jane Hofmeyr and her colleagues have worked so hard to make ISASA a resilient and burgeoning enterprise, as you will realise if you turn to pages 16 and 38 to read about two new member schools – Tomorrow’s People and SOWLE. And perhaps the most inspirational story of all is that of Future Comprehensive School in Limpopo.

Patrick Mogowe simply refused to give up when it came to establishing this school and joining ISASA. The support he has received from well-established ISASA schools in other areas is heart-warming, as is his understanding of the uncertain circumstances to which we must all adapt. In his own words, “We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we are aware that we can adjust our sails.” 

Category: Regular Columns, Summer 2013

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