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Where uniform creates unity: St Declan’s School for Boys

| April 10, 2018 | 0 Comments


When starting St Declan’s School for Boys in 2015, we set out to create a school that is focused on the moral teachings of Christianity, allowing boys who pass through our school to have guidance and direction that will stay with them for life.

It is the focus and hope for all schools to provide good opportunities and good academic instruction to children in the hopes that they will one day become upstanding citizens in society. However, St Declan’s, based in Alberton, Gauteng, did not start with the vision of becoming a just another good school. The purpose of creating a Christian boys’ school is to provide opportunities for boys that they would not be exposed to in other academic institutions, with the guidance of moral teachings from Christianity at our core.

Positivity a key value

It is the mission of our school to expose our boys to as much as possible academically, socially, culturally and physically, and also to ensure long-term success and love for everything that they do. Boys at St Declan’s are nurtured in a manner that teaches them a sense of responsibility, love for others, accountability and the ability to be an inspiration and a helping hand to others. St Declan’s has set out to ensure that all our boys have a positive self-image and sense of responsibility. We have managed to do this by employing an academic staff who continuously go over and above the normal expectations of any workplace and treat each and every boy as an individual with specific needs and abilities. The ability to inspire children to want to learn and want to perform is directly linked to the people with whom they come into contact. I can confidently say that each and every teacher at St Declan’s is truly inspirational towards the boys at our school, and the love and guidance that they give the boys on a daily basis will enable the long-term success of all boys passing through the school.

Steady growth

Pericles, an ancient Greek statesman, once said: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments but what is woven into the lives of others.”1 On 13 January 2015, St Declan’s School for Boys opened its doors to a group of energetic boys, who sat eagerly listening to a number of various speakers on the Inauguration Day of our new school. Little did those boys know that not only were they a part of a new school, but also a part of creating a legacy beyond anyone’s expectations.

In our first year, St Declan’s was home to 70 boys, ranging from Grade R up to Grade 6. To date, we have grown to 240 boys from Grade R to Grade 8, and anticipate that St Declan’s will offer all grades, including Grade 12, by 2021.

A family that goes from strength to strength

As a Christian boys’ school, our motto is taken from Proverbs 3:6, which states: “In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.”2We firmly believe in the Christian ways we cleave to and know that they are guiding the paths of our boys to future success in everything that they do. As a newish boys’ school, we are able to create a culture that draws on traditional boys’ schools values and we adapt them to benefit the modern boy, ensuring that we provide the best possible experience for every boy – academically, sporting, culturally and socially.

St Declan’s is not just a place of learning for our boys, but rather an extension of their family. Family involvement at St Declan’s ensures that we create an environment whereby parental commitment is an integral part of the school’s development. This family-focused approach has enabled parental commitment and enthusiasm.

It is remarkable to think that in such a short period of time, the St Declan’s staff and families have been able to build foundations that ensure that our boys receive rigorous academic instruction. In three years, our boys have also participated in a number of different sporting codes (athletics, soccer, rugby, touch rugby, mini cricket, cricket, swimming and cross-country athletics) at both friendly and league level, stamping our footprint within the schooling environment.

Small classes, close to home

Under the guidance of our school directors, Derek and Debbie Robertson, we have been able to create a learning environment that ensures academic success in every grade. Class sizes in the foundation phase are limited to four classes per grade with a maximum number of 18 boys per class, allowing for a solid academic grounding to be instilled. From Grade 4 onwards, we have three classes per grade and a maximum number of 24 boys per class, allowing for each boy’s personality to shine through and to create opportunities for all class members to share ideas and create long-lasting friendships, regardless of ability. The result is an intimate environment where all boys will be known for who they are as individuals, rather than trying to compete for attention or only be recognised if they are the top performers in the classroom or on the sports field.

We have observed that primary and high schools in the Alberton area are full to capacity, and a number of families have been left feeling that they need to travel to find quality education for their children. As this has been a problem in the area for a number of years, St Declan’s and our sister school, Grace Trinity School for Girls, emerged to provide the community with the opportunity to send their child to schools of excellence nearby. Therefore, parents do not have to send their children away and miss out on their everyday development.

The annual blazer ceremony

As the principal of this new boy’s school, I am very excited about the growth, development and traditions that have been created over the past two-and-a-half years. A brotherhood bond has been developed among our founding boys, but more pleasing is their acceptance of new boys into our school each year, eagerly showing the new boys the journey along the path that they will follow together. A big part of the welcome to our school is the tradition, started in our first year, of the senior boys clothing the new members of our school in the school blazer at our annual blazer ceremony. It lays the foundations for future generations of young men who ultimately will guide the paths of others, as not only peers but as brothers who will stand by each other for a lifetime. It is a tradition explaining the significance of our uniform and encouraging new members to embark on a lifelong journey.

Like all clothing, uniforms mediate interactions between individuals and groups and offer observers visual clues that lead to expectations of the wearer’s behaviour and social status. In the wider society there have always been many questions surrounding a uniform, its function, importance and significance.3What can be so important about a piece of material that we feel it is necessary to invite all new families to celebrate when it is passed on to boys who are simply joining a school? There is no straightforward answer to this question, but rather a number of small yet significant talking points that are of the utmost importance to understand when getting dressed in the St Declan’s uniform.

Where uniform creates unity

To understand our uniform, the meaning of our emblem should be made clear. The cross in the emblem does not only show us that we are a school that subscribes to Christian values, but also that we believe in the willingness of God to send his own son to suffer for the sins of others – a sacrifice that shows the importance of not being selfish, that teaches us the importance of standing up for each other in times of trouble, and a reminder that we will stand together through good times and bad.

The St Declan’s emblem is found on a number of different items of clothing, such as the breast pocket of shirts. This hasn’t been placed there as a matter of convenience or aesthetics. It has been put there so that whenever our boys are feeling lonely, unloved or confused, they can look down to their heart and remember that the St Declan’s family will always be there for them.

Lastly, our emblem can be found on our school tie and blazer. These items are the final touches to a uniform that is unique in the sense that it is worn with pride and knowledge of a supportive brotherhood. They give our boys a sense of importance, not arrogance.

Weaving a legacy

Our small school has competed in a number of cultural events, playing host to the Southern Arts Festival and participating in the Alberton Eisteddfod, achieving a number of outstanding results in a number of different categories, ranging from speeches to the arts. On the sports front, we regularly compete against established schools, making an impact wherever we go. Over the past three years, a barren landscape of grass, rocks and dust has given way to a school office block, six classrooms and a field. To date, we have added another 10 classrooms, are near completion with our six-lane, 25 m, indoor heated swimming facility and are in the process of completing our cricket oval and second utility field. As the school grows year by year, we will be building additional classrooms as well as updating facilities as needed. In the near future, construction of our next classroom block, sports centre and shared auditorium will begin. Whilst this developing infrastructure assists us in providing additional excellence, it is worth repeating Pericles’s words every day at St Declan’s: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments but what is woven into the lives of others.”


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Category: Autumn 2018

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