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From the Editor

| November 3, 2010

“Repent, for the end is nigh!” The plaintive cry of the naysayer in the market place has in more modern times morphed into the bumper sticker, “The time is now”. Should you choose to see it, the message is everywhere – even taken up by a local insurance powerhouse in a current television advertisement featuring actor John Kani, who cautions the viewer that “there is no-one but us” to remedy current and impending global crises.

Some of us respond better to the same caveat when it’s couched in what cynics call ‘New Age-speak’. Doing the rounds in this vein is a message attributed to the elders of the Hopi tribe in north-eastern Arizona. “You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour,” it begins. “Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.”

The hour for what, some may still be asking. Andrew Harrington spelt things out in a recent Business Report article: “Ignorance and greed have left humankind facing enormous environmental and social challenges” (Hannington, A: CSR: financial load, moral obligation or opportunity? Business Report, 2010/06/10.)
Political, economic and environmental uncertainty (international and local) will most certainly have implications for your school, said every speaker at the ISASA conference held at the Sandton Convention Centre in September. From a policy perspective, reported Jane Hofmeyr, independent schools face an increasingly complex web of legislation, the unanticipated consequences of which could prove devastating for the unprepared. Nicky Newton-King, Deputy CEO of the JSE Securities Exchange, reminded the audience of school heads, bursars and governing body members that, left unremedied, the country’s generally poor education results will spell disaster for our economic future.

James Honan of the Harvard Graduate School of Education pointed out that, in the context of extreme fiscal austerity, independent schools must face parents’ low appetite for increased fees in new, creatively strategic ways. Professor Adam Habib, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, called upon ISASA members to foster social responsibility in a consultative context to eradicate lingering perceptions of independent schools as elitist organisations that replicate social inequality. And Michael Judin, senior partner at Goldman Judin Inc., explained the impact of the King III Report on governance in independent schools. [Mervyn King himself, Chair of the King Committee in South Africa and the Global Reporting Initiative, has observed the following: “To make our economy [read schools] sustainable we have to relearn everything we have learnt. This means making more from less and ensuring that governance, strategy and sustainability are inseparable.”] (Ibid.)
One may be inclined to despondency, or worse, after hearing such messages.

Said Vanity Fair’s editor, Graydon Carter, in the magazine’s October 2010 issue, America is an angry nation. “[We don’t like] Wall Street, Google or BP, for a start. We hate Obama, Bush and Cheney. We hate big media, big oil, big China…” Here at the southernmost tip of Africa, however, there are other responses at our disposal. Said Professor Crain Soudien, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, at the conference, “At no time in history have we had such extraordinary opportunity to be acting in all of our best interests.” As leaders, educators and administrators at independent schools, we must embrace a new lexicon composed of words like ‘connection’, ‘engagement’, ‘community’, ‘sustainability’ and my personal favourite, ‘resilience’. Said the Hopi elders, “The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for.”

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Category: Summer 2010

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