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LEAVERS’ DINNER SPEECH

“St Anne’s has given me value. It has given me confidence. It has given me my humanity.” Zimasa Vezi, Deputy Head Girl 2021

The following speech was delivered by our Deputy Head Girl, Zimasa Vezi (pictured middle), at the Matric Leavers’ Dinner:

“Now this might be my last speech as deputy head girl. But this night is not about me… However, I will be telling a story about myself anyways. With all due respect, I came from a school where I felt that I didn’t matter. I felt that because of my race, my gender and just who I am as a person that I couldn’t get very far in life. This feeling followed with me on the playground and haunted me in the classroom. I felt that because I wasn’t particularly gifted at solving for x or wasn’t athletically inclined or charismatic that I had no value.

Though no place is entirely perfect, it is here at St Anne’s where I feel that my race or gender or personality isn’t a burden. It has fostered an environment where I can redefine what success means to me. St Anne’s is where I feel that my success is only determined by my own efforts but my awareness of the plights of the outside world are not compromised.

For me, St Anne’s has also redefined what it means to be intelligent or educated, that is not only limited to our ability to memorise terms and score high test results but also in our empathy and compassion for those around us. St Anne’s has made school feel more inclusive to me, allowing for diversity of character and for our value lying not only in our accolades but simply who we are as people.

St Anne’s has given me value. It has given me confidence. It has given me my humanity. And I believe that not many students in our country can say the same about their own schools.

I owe this to Mrs Martin, Ms Mlilo and to all the members of staff I have had the privilege to be taught by or interact with. And I owe this especially to the matrics of 2021.

To Ms Gaines and the Fedics Team, to merely say thank you is not enough. I cannot justly express our gratitude. Early mornings and late nights go into making our meals nutritious and incredibly delicious every single day. We cannot thank you enough for your sacrifices, the time spent away from your families and the love and support you consistently show us. We also thank you for these delicious meals tonight.

Mrs Martin, it is so difficult to describe how phenomenal you have been as our head of school. You have been so dedicated in transforming our school and making it a place where we feel like we belong. You have also tackled difficulties with such grace and ease, that it is rather astonishing to believe that you have not been in this role for decades. You have been an inspiring role model to Fentje and me and we are so honoured to have had the chance to work and learn from you. From the open benches to the your warm smiles when you walk past, Mrs Martin, you make us all feel seen and heard and we thank you.

Ms Mlilo, you have been a remarkable leader thus far and it is almost hard to remember that this is only your first year with us. Your fervor in trying to make St Anne’s feel like home for all of us, despite how difficult it has been, is incredibly inspiring and what I love most about your leadership is how unafraid you are to have the difficult conversations and to be vulnerable with us. You are unapologetically yourself and you give us the courage to do the same. Thank you, Ms Mlilo.

Mrs Perrett, thank you for your hard work in creating this wonderful event tonight but more importantly, thank you for being such a compassionate and nurturing Form Head. Your unconditional support has made this whirlwind of a year a lot easier.

Your dedication to the academics of our school, Mr van Niekerk, is truly appreciated. You encourage us to strive to new heights and perform at our very best but never at the expense of our happiness and health and we thank you.

To all our teachers, thank you for your commitment to us both in and out the classroom. Your passion for teaching has helped us move further towards our dreams and have shaped us to become people of value in the world. You have certainly changed our lives for the better. Though the pandemic has made your jobs a lot more difficult and tumultuous, your care and dedication has been consistent and our appreciation for you is indescribable.

Now to our housemothers. I just want to say sorry. You have truly seen it all. Breakdowns, screaming, nudity, profanity and admittingly at times, scheming. Thank you for your dedication to each one of us. For embracing our individuality and being our biggest cheerleaders, and for your wonderful every morning, yes I am talking about you Mrs Philpot. Thank you for being our mothers away from our own and like our mothers you never hesitate to put us in our place. So in someway, the early risings and the wall-washing are greatly appreciated.

To our aunties, you truly make St Anne’s feel like home. Thank you for the immense support and love you have shown us. To Mama Zandi and Mama Gladys I will miss you especially. I have loved every moment I have spent with you in the house and the sense of peace I feel when I am with you. Ngiyabonga.

In their absence, I want to thank our parents. Leaving their children at the hands of, essentially, strangers is a difficult task to do. But I am sure that many of us can agree that bringing us to St Anne’s was one of the best decisions they have ever made for us.

Fentje, I am usually quite good with my words but there are very few to describe just how special you are. Fentje, you are somehow both a gift to the world and a menace to society. And glass doors. Especially glass doors.

I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect role for you than head girl. You are so devoted in making our school the best and the happiest it can be and working with you has been one of greatest things to happen to me. Your selflessness, your optimism and your creativity inspire me every day. Thank you for being an amazing friend and a spectacular leader.

To the matrics, my ladies in blue.

I will admit that writing this part of my speech has been the most difficult. Partly because it is quite hard to make sense of our, well, craziness But mostly because I felt that writing this part of the speech signifies the beginning of the end. And I am not ready for it to end with you all. Matrics, similar to what I said at MD, we create an environment of love and kindness that is unmatched. We accept each other with our quirks and flaws and we support each other unconditionally. We are unafraid to question and challenge each other and the world around us. And that kind of space is very rare.

I never used to think of myself as the kind of person that would enjoy being in a space with 92 other strangers and having to share a room with at least 12 of them. If you couldn’t already tell, I’ve been an only child for most of my life and yes was very coddled. But you all have made all five years of absolute chaos, golden miles, meltdowns and debates on how much we like Greta Thunberg, so magical. I have loved every moment spent with you and I cannot wait to see what we will accomplish in the future. It has been an honour to not only be your deputy head girl but be part of the class of 2021.

Please may you join me in a toast. I was reminded of this quote by Alfred Lord Tennyson (thanks Jordan and Micky) from Ulysses that says: “I am part of all that I have met”

I think what we have here, is a symbiotic relationship. To some extent the old girls and our school are extro-dinary because of our connection with one another.

Here’s to St Anne’s.”