Prizegiving at Durbanville High School, 10 October 2012
Speech by Donald Grant, Western Cape Education Minister
Dr Brand, District Director of Metro North
Dr Theron, Chairman of the Governing Body,
Members of the Governing Body
parents and learners of Durbanville High School
Thank you for the kind invitation to be with you on this important occasion and also for the even kinder words of welcome.
Of all the speaking engagements I accept, ones such as this are for me the most difficult because of the variety of audiences in one place - staff, friends of the school, parents and learners.
Try to speak to all of them and you go nowhere. Unapologetically, my approach is always to speak to the young people whose development and achievements are being celebrated. After all - if there is one thing I have learned as a parent and now working full time in the world of education - it is that schools are all about young people and THEIR development.
At the outset, I want to congratulate all the learners whose hard work, quality and achievements have been recognized here this evening.
I am under no illusion about the amount of consistent hard work and effort which have to be put in by most people to attain real success.
In his various books about the theme of "how good quality is converted into great quality", Jim Collins, in analyzing what produces success, comes to the following conclusion:
"Greatness is not a function of circumstances; greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice and discipline."
Seldom in life do we end up where we want to be just by accident. We equip ourselves, we plan and we put in the hard work.
So well done to all the prizewinners. You certainly deserve the recognition.
While we celebrate individual learner success, we also celebrate the success of this school.
I have been around schools for too long not to understand that the positive picture of this school and its community is not just the sum of all the achievements of the order of those we have recognized tonight.
Just as important are the 1000s of smaller everyday successes that are achieved by all of you in this school - the once off, the informal - yet for the person who achieves this - just as important. Well done to all of you, as well.
We also all need to be reminded that failing a task or losing a rugby or netball game does not make us a failure or a loser. If it did, many people would simply never try the things they do. We will not always be successful.
But we all have to attempt things because they are important to us. The attempt often takes courage and asks us to rise above ourselves and our limitations and in this attempt is found a special sort of success. We are not failures because we sometimes fail. Good schools, like Durbanville HS, give young people a protected environment in which to attempt new and difficult things without paying a permanent price.
I am sure that the every learner leaving Durbanville HS will approach life outside this school with greater confidence because of this.
I would therefore like to thank - and I am sure I do this on your behalf as well - the Headmaster, Mnr Germishuys, and the entire staff of this school for their vital role in all of this.
(A round of applause for all of them please.)
To our Grade 12s, from here - you go out into what people like to call the real world.
The 'real world' is certainly very different from the world I went into and also different from that of your parents.
The world you are entering is a combination of the new technologies, the removal of barriers and the explosion of knowledge. It is a world of increased opportunities but also one of greater competition. Let's look briefly at a few of these:
- It is estimated that 20% of the young people in an average school hall will such as this will end up doing jobs that do not exist at the moment. Not jobs we do not know about, but jobs that do not exist. This raises all sorts of questions for schools and teachers about how they prepare young people to be able to adapt, apply knowledge in different contexts and cope with different forms of employment.
- There will be more opportunities and choices. This on its own is a challenge. At least young people leaving school today in South Africa are free to travel and seek employment anywhere. But they also do it in an environment in which economic and other protections have been removed. So there will also be more competition.
But what about the Class of 2012 sitting before me today? Will they cope? What do we know about them?
- They are true digital natives and they call their teachers digital tourists. They have not lived a day in a world without internet and mobile technology. Many of us in this hall lived a fair part of our lives in South Africa without even television!!
- They thrive on random access and can multitask with ease. The sight of young people in front of a computer with cell phone in one hand, iPod in the ear and doing their maths homework drives my generation up the wall. But they cope. Even worse, they get 90% for maths.
- They work best when networked and they thrive on instant answers and rewards. It is part of the electronic games culture.
- In their careers they will have lofty financial and personal goals and will not consider their employer as their career. Rather they will work for an orgnisation because it satisfies their needs.
These features are complemented by good schools such as Durbanville HS that teach such things as communications skills, critical thinking and problem solving, systems thinking and adaptability.
I am confident that the grade 12 class of 2012 of Durbanville HS will leave with these skills and will be well equipped indeed.
My best wishes for the NSC and your future endeavors ahead.
On an end note, I do want to take a minute to thank all of you in this hall for the outstanding service you render through your support of this great school.
As parents, as members of staff, as governors and as friends you make an immeasurable contribution. You play an enormous role in ensuring that this school is financed adequately, is located in a broad community providing a stable value base and is held to account for its standards.
As human beings, we make things happen. It is never sufficient to believe that they will just happen.
For this I thank you and I look forward to seeing constant growth at this school -a school that is continuously thriving in service of the members and youth of the Durbanville and broader community.