The Headmaster’s Newsletter

Dear Parents                                                                          

The next five days have been set aside as a period of national mourning for the victims of the Pandemic. Here at The Ridge flags will be flown at half-mast and we are asking that all Ridge boys and members of staff wear black armbands as together we observe this important time through which to pay our respects.

The Ridge School pays tribute to and honours the memory of the many who have died in our land as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic

Covid-19 Update:

We are extremely grateful that very few of our Ridge families have been badly affected by Covid-19; something to give thanks for. The reality is, of course, that as a nation we are far from being out of the woods and that the call is as strong as it has ever been for us to continue to exercise caution and responsibility.

A quote taken from a national newspaper,Dr Zweli Mkhize, Minister of Health, said on radio last Thursday morning that he is concerned about the rising cases, especially in the Eastern Cape. He attributed it to corona virus fatigue and people reverting to normal behaviour. He said that our behaviour needs to be “New Normal”, wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds and confined spaces and exemplary hygiene standards.”

As we bring the curtain down on this 2020 academic year early next week, we do so mindful of our role in continuing to place the health and safety of our boys and staff above all else. As such, the decisions that have been made around the Valedictory Picnic this coming Friday night, the JP and SP (Grades 4 – 6) Final Assemblies on Tuesday, 1st December, and the Grade 7 Awards and Valedictory Assembly on Wednesday 2nd December, have been made in the interests of safety first.

Only Grade 7 parents, many of whom will be saying farewell themselves, have been invited to attend their sons’ functions due to the regulations that limit numbers attending school functions. They will be expected to attend wearing masks and will sign health and safety clearances on entry.

As we look to the School reopening in January, parents are reminded that we are planning around a ‘modified normal’ return for the boys on 13th January. Modified, because of the reality that masks and physical distancing will still be the order of the day. Understandably, some of the details of this return are still to be confirmed depending on what restrictions might need to be placed on schools returning after the December holiday break. This will mean that only by Wednesday 6th January, will parents of all Ridge boys be told of how your boys will return to school the following week.

Giving Thanks:

It was mentioned earlier in this newsletter that it is important for us to give thanks at this time when, being able to look back, the interventions, work, support and wisdom of so many have brought us, relatively unscathed by the coronavirus, to this stage of the year. As headmaster, it is my sincere pleasure to thank all who have played a part in helping to bring this about. In particular:

  • To all our wonderful teachers and therapists who have gone beyond the call, and certainly what most signed up for, to reach meaningfully and with professional know how into new areas of teaching delivery, care-giving, flexibility and adaptability, emotional support, and teamwork on behalf of boys, parents and each other;
  • To our incredible Ridge boys who have shown again just how resilient and adaptable children can be. Little lads, young men and the many boys in-between who have ‘manfully’ taken on the challenges that this unsettled and uncertain year has brought their way. Done so with oodles of spirit, loads of maturity and plenty of ‘Right Stuff’ respect – for their School, their teachers and each other;
  • To my Exco and Manco management teams for the incredible work done in helping to lead into the unknown, for stepping up to assist when tough decisions needed to be made, and for standing in the gap on some unexpected occasions;
  • To our amazing IT admin team who have done many months of tireless work behind the scenes to make sure that our Internet and WiFi connectivity have been all that they have needed to be in order for remote teaching and learning to happen;
  • To all admin, support, service and security staff members who have weathered their own storms on individual levels but who have nonetheless stoically played vital parts in keeping stability and order within the schooling operation as a whole;
  • To all student masters and interns who have been called to step into substitution and support roles, sometimes at a moment’s notice, and who have answered that call with willing hearts and a real boy-centred awareness;
  • To you, our parents, for your understanding at those times when we were all ‘reaching into the mist’, not sure of which direction to follow, for the incredible job done in support of the online teaching and learning, and for trusting your boys back into our care as we came back into a schooling system this term that was far from normal;
  • To Ijeoma Solarin and her PA committee for so much work done as representatives of respective grades, for taking on important liaison roles and for staying in touch;
  • To the Chairman of our Ridge Board, Itumeleng Kgaboesele and his governors who were prepared to offer new levels of support, wisdom and advice; and who made a point of staying in touch as we journeyed through uncharted waters;
  • To our Heavenly Father who has again held us, as The Ridge School, in the palm of His hand during the year like no other in recent time.

A Few End-of-Term Reminders:

  • The Grade 7 Valedictory Picnic to be held on Friday evening, 27th November will go ahead, rain or shine. Parents, boys and staff will need to remain flexible apropos late arrangement and venue changes that might have to be made as a result of the weather;
  • Break-up morning, Tuesday 1st Decemberboys and members of staff only for both of these assemblies. All Grade 1 – 6 boys are expected to be dressed in khakis, long grey socks and closed shoes.
  • the Junior Primary boys and members of staff will attend their Final Assembly at 08.30. They will be free to leave at the times as indicated below.
  • the Senior Primary boys (grades 4 – 6) and members of staff will attend their Final Assembly starting at 10.00.
  • the Grade 7 boys will be involved in special activities on that morning. They will be free to go home at 10.00.

Staggered pick-up times for break-up day, 1st December:

  • Grade 0 – 10:30
  • Grade 1 – 10:45
  • Grade 2 – 11:00
  • Grade 3 – 11:15

The JP boys will be picked up from Lawley Road carpark.

  • Grade 4 – 11.00
  • Grade 5 – 11.15 
  • Grade 6 – 11.30

The SP boys will be picked up from the Woolston Road car park.

All younger siblings to wait for older brothers and both will be collected in Lawley Road

  • Break-up morning, Wednesday 2nd December …
  • The Grade 7 boys, their parents and members of staff will attend an Awards Ceremony starting at 08.30. Boys to be at school by 08.00.
  • This will be followed immediately by the Valedictory Farewell Assembly which will be finished by around 11.00.
  • The Grade 7 boys will be expected to come dressed in their summer blues. No blazers will be needed. The boys may bring an extra school shirt for ‘signing’ purposes.

A Final Word:

In searching for some homily that would prove fitting in offering some deeper insight and meaning to all that the past year has brought our way, and, in particular, what it might have taught us all, I came across the following story as told by a retiring Australian headmaster in his retirement speech to the school a few years ago. I have taken the liberty of borrowing the bulk of the story and adapting some of what he shared in the interests of finding some parallels to our 2020 context. Otherwise the story is largely told word-for-word and as taken from his closing address.

The Story of Pebbles

There is an old legend about a group of shepherds who were preparing to go to sleep one night when suddenly the sky lit up with a heavenly light that shone down on them. Being shepherds, they knew that something wonderful was going to happen and they waited with eager anticipation.

At last a voice spoke from the heavens. It said to them, “Gather up as many pebbles as you can find. Put them in your saddle bags. Travel a day’s journey and tomorrow night will find you glad and will also find you sad.”

The shepherds were disappointed and angry. They had expected the revelation of something great for them and the world. perhaps some heavenly choirs of angels singing and promises of a new dawn for humanity. It has happened before for other shepherds. But instead they had been told to do something that made no sense at all.

Grudgingly, the shepherds bent down and picked up a few pebbles, as many as they each thought would not be too big a burden and put them in their saddle bags.

The next day, they travelled their day’s journey and that night made camp. They decided to empty the pebbles from their saddlebags as nothing exciting had happened during the day and they decided that they had been tricked.

To their astonishment, the pebbles had disappeared and, in their place, sparkling diamonds, one for each pebble they had collected. The leading shepherd turned to his companions and said, “The voice spoke truth. Tonight, we are glad and we are sad. We are glad because we have these precious diamonds. But we are also sad because we did not pick up more pebbles and thus have more diamonds.”

We never know in life which pebbles are going to turn out to be diamonds. Everything you learn without knowing why you are learning it is a pebble. At the end of year or a school career, students will find that their mental and emotional saddlebags contain diamonds.

Here we are, approaching the end of a year like no other, and as students, teachers and parents start the process of reflection on a year gone by, it is worth asking some hard questions of ourselves:

Did we collect enough pebbles in the early months of this year, that would have been somewhat of a burden to carry, but which by now would have become precious for us? Some of these pebbles may have been adapting to lockdown, adjusting to working from home, loss of income, becoming accustom to Zoom and Google Meets, living with the wearing of masks and coming to terms with unnatural physical distancing requirements, or perhaps an old habit discarded or a new one commenced …

Are there diamonds that we have collected that we are still unaware of because we haven’t inspected our luggage? Is there someone we ought to be thanking? Is there a part of our life we are taking for granted which has grown and developed this past 2020 year but we haven’t thought about it yet?

Whilst this oft times dark and threatening year has certainly tested the staying power of the human spirit, looking back, and on behalf of our school community, one is able to reflect on the fact that the collective spirit that is the School family, has been remarkably resilient. Each in its own way providing, perspective, promise, hope and opportunity. Here at The Ridge, as we gather up the diamonds that have come with each silver lining, we are able to give thanks that through the trials and tribulations, the sadness and pain, the anxieties and fear, there is, too, a rainbow of hope that we will be able look to as the December holidays come into view.

In closing, I wish all members of The Ridge family every happiness, many magical memory-making moments, safe travels, and God’s covering and favour as you and yours enjoy some much needed rest and recuperation in the weeks ahead.

Go well and God bless you all

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