20 MARCH 2020
Our First Term came to a rather abrupt end for our pupils as a result of our President’s announcements on Sunday evening. While it was understandable that a number of pupils, particularly those living overseas, needed to leave earlier than the rescheduled departure time of 14:00 on Tuesday afternoon, it was very disappointing to note that a few parents seemed to panic and pull their daughters out of school without good reason. In a few instances, girls left without following existing exeat protocols, thereby compromising their safety.
Up until this week, the girls were exemplary in the manner in which they dealt with the implications of Hilton being the area in which the first positive case of the Covid-19 virus in South Africa was reported. I, on a number of occasions, applauded them for this, and now wish to use this opportunity to acknowledge the wonderful support of the vast majority of our parents as you partner us in trying to navigate our way through unchartered waters.
Academic staff have just completed a two-day training programme in preparation for the possibility of Remote Learning taking place at the start of the new term. All teachers and most of the girls are already familiar with the use of OneNote Class Notebooks. This will be our platform of choice for content distribution and teacher-pupil interactions. OneNote does provide for synchronous interaction between teacher and pupils. Staff have also been trained on the use of Microsoft Teams and Zoom as the software tools to use for any live video-feed teaching that will need to take place. We all need to acknowledge that this is a very fortunate position. I am very concerned about the negative impact that a prolonged closure will have on the majority of schools in our country.
Please read my Communique No 3 re the virus if you have not already done so, and expect to receive a further Communique from me on the afternoon or evening of Thursday 9 April.
The Sanatorium staff has anecdotal evidence that girls who have had the Vaxigrip vaccine, generally do not succumb to flu. In the instances that they do, their symptoms and time off school are drastically reduced. The Sanatorium therefore strongly recommends that pupils receive a flu vaccination during the holidays. This would allow for the build-up of immunity before next term. Flu vaccines should be available at the beginning of April.
It was with great shock and sadness that we received the news of the sudden death of Mark Perrow, the father of Kate who is in Grade 11 at St Anne’s. Our sincere condolences are extended to his wife, Belinda, and daughters, Alice and Kate, as well as to his mother, Beryl, and extended family.
GRADE 8 PUPIL
On Tuesday, a Grade 8 St Anne’s pupil disappeared from her home that neighbours onto our St Anne’s property. Members of our St Anne’s community, especially staff members who live in the area, as well as members of the broader Hilton community, were exceptional in the manner in which they responded to the news that the girl was missing. The girl was eventually found by a senior St Anne’s pupil who was part of the broader search-party, and although in a dazed/unconscious state, the girl was unharmed. Thank you to all who demonstrated exemplary care and community spirit as you voluntarily gave of your time and energy. The scary nature of the incident was somewhat compensated for by yet another example of what makes St Anne’s and Hilton so special.
We made use of our end-of-term assembly and staff meeting to bid farewell to Ms Lungile Bhengu (leaving the St Anne’s sanatorium to follow her dream of working in the field of law), Mrs Angela Theron (moving to Merrifield High in East London where she will be closer to family members) and Ms Moira Filmer (taking up a Deputy Head position at Epworth). All three of these staff members leave the College knowing that they have made a significant impact on pupils and staff, and we wish them well as they take on their new challenges.
We congratulate Ms Juwairiah Bemath, one of our Interns, who is getting married this holiday.
Congratulations to the following girls who received their Honours Awards at Tuesday’s Assembly:
Diving: Ella Karan
Swimming: Erin Ahier, Georgina Butcher and Olivia Rosenfels
Water Polo: Erin Ahier
Following on my previous communication with you about a number of our pupils using a social media app called Tiktok in an inappropriate manner, over 60 girls were identified. The offences were categorised in line with our Pupils’ Disciplinary Code and Mrs Debbie Martin then engaged with every one of the involved girls in a manner that focused on acknowledgement of inappropriate behaviour, and on the facilitation of improved future behaviour. I joined Debbie in meeting with the girls, and their parents, who had been involved in the more serious offences.
I thank Debbie for the manner in which she tackled a very time-consuming issue, and also commend the girls and their parents for being willing to learn from this experience. Yesterday, Debbie circulated a general report of the process to staff members, without identifying any of the girls, and I have, with her permission, included a few paragraphs of her report in this letter.
“Even though this was a disciplinary process (involving videos which had mostly been filmed last year) I really enjoyed talking to the girls and hearing their opinions and getting to know them better. What saddened and confused me in watching some of the videos, was the disconnect I saw between how the girls portrayed themselves at school with a strong voice and admirable authenticity, which was in stark contrast with the personas portrayed in the videos which were often disempowering to women and reflected a personality inferior to who they really are.
One of the things I love about working with our girls, is a certain X factor which is difficult to verbalise, but there’s a real sense of self, a wholeness, and I was distressed that what these videos represented robbed many of them of their truth. In our discussions, we dealt with authenticity and how treasured it is by most people, and they acknowledged, without exception, that they prized this. Tears were shed often and I don’t think it’s melodramatic to say that for many it was a relief to talk openly and to delve into what really lies inside and these emotions were cathartic.”
“During our discussions, an average response for how much time was spent daily on social media was, “Oh not much, between 2-4 hours, and more over weekends and during holidays.” I thought this was alarming given that many girls struggle with the anxiety of completing homework and preparing for assessments. When we multiplied the number of days for which their phones would be confiscated, by the average number of hours per day that they used social media, they saw how many more worthwhile opportunities were squandered.”
“I asked the girls to explain to their parents what their involvement in the videos had been before I contacted their parents. A common response to how their conversation with their parents had gone, was that their parents were understanding and supportive, and one girl said that the openness with her parents had shown her that she could talk to them about awkward issues in future.”
BALLITO BUS SERVICE
There is currently a bus service that transports pupils from Ballito to St Anne’s every Monday morning, and after Half Terms and other holidays. This service was privately initiated by a mother whose daughter has subsequently graduated from St Anne’s.
Ms Esther Naicker, our travel co-ordinator, has unfortunately become increasingly involved in the travel arrangements pertaining to this service. The impact on her time as she co-ordinates passenger lists and follows up on complaints is unacceptable for the following reasons, amongst others:
- The service was never intended to be the responsibility of St Anne’s.
- St Anne’s has consistently made it clear that, while it currently continues to facilitate and be responsible for the long-existing bus service to The Pavilion, it is not prepared to add to this service. The College is not a transport company and the risks associated with such transport arrangements are immense.
- Ballito does not fall into our weekly boarding zone as per our boarding status policy. St Anne’s involvement in facilitating the Ballito service can be viewed as contradicting this policy. There should, in theory, be no need for a weekly service from Ballito.
I must therefore inform you that while St Anne’s cannot, and will not, stop what is essentially a private service, it will no longer be involved in any logistics associated with the service. This decision has the support of our College Board and will take effect from the beginning of next term.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”