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Walking with purpose: a day of hope and belonging

| June 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

The full-day general meeting of the Southern African Heads of Independent Schools Association (SAHISA) Central Region, which took place in mid-March 2017, had an unconventional format. Delegates were hosted at St David’s Marist College, Inanda, in Johannesburg, Gauteng, and were addressed first by Mark Heywood, executive director of advocacy group Section 27, and then by academic, theologian and lawyer Barney Pityana.

At a time when much of the public discourse in South Africa focuses on the negative, Heywood was keen to emphasise a theme of hope rather than paralysis. He reminded delegates that South Africa’s Constitution gives us the power to be active citizens, and that independent schools have a particular role to play in creating an environment of hope. “Independent schools can help to build a community of independent thinking and questioning individuals… School graduates should be activists for social justice,” said Heywood.

The theme of Pityana’s address was ubuntu and “creating a sense of belonging for all”. Pityana insisted that the multiracial, multicultural, multilingual texture of South Africa’s society is not a source of weakness or division, but helps to make us what we are. Shared values are actually what defines a nation. Ubuntu is the recognition that we are interlocked and interdependent: we owe our humanity to others. Ubuntu thus lies at the heart of our constitutional values.

From St David’s, delegates were taken out of their comfort zone and bussed down to the old centre of Johannesburg — to areas that few of us visit anymore — to experience hope and revitalisation in action. Although the revitalisation of downtown Joburg is patchy, it is nevertheless real. Delegates were reminded of this by taking a guided walk through the centre of downtown Johannesburg, from Ferreirasdorp via the Carlton Centre to the revived Maboneng cultural precinct. The host and guide there was Luke Lamprecht and the starting point was the Fox Street Sheds, a formerly industrial area that has now been transformed into a dynamic cultural hub, with various thriving businesses including an artisanal food and produce market, an event venue, bars and restaurants and a craft brewery.

En route the group passed the “Shadow Boxing” sculpture of Nelson Mandela outside the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court and opposite Chancellor House, once the location of the law firm of Mandela and Tambo Attorneys. Mandela’s words on the art of boxing are etched across the plinth of the six-metre sculpture: “In the ring, rank, age, colour and wealth are irrelevant.”

The Maboneng precinct, where the walk came to an end, is also a blend of urban lifestyle, culture and business — and food, with its restaurants representing the African multiculturalism of Joburg. Johannesburg may not quite be the “world-class African city” that it likes to brag about, but its history, its architecture and the vibe of its people from across the continent make it a city of energy, constantly reinventing itself.

The day ended with a return to St David’s and a question-andanswer session with learners from St David’s, Sacred Heart School, Bella Vista School, St Dominic’s Catholic School for Girls, Boksburg and United Church Schools. The learners were given the chance to express themselves on purpose, belonging and hope.

Category: Winter 2017

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