Our young tigers are a breath of fresh air

2012-03-24 10:17

Two of the most moving events that I have attended this year have been school events, and the most impressive people have been the young children.

Young, bright-eyed, positive, hopeful and so full of enthusiasm, these young school children sound and act as if they have sipped from the well of wisdom and compassion.

First up was the Grade 8 evening at Wendywood High School and last week I was at King David School in Sandton for the induction of the Johannesburg Mini Council.

In a country where cynicism is often in oversupply, it is heartening to see such an overwhelming sense of purpose among school children of such a tender age.

We hear so often talk of the lost generation and frightening stories of poorly disciplined kids, but these kids are the antidote.

They wear their confidence with an infectious chutzpah and it is obvious they see themselves as young giants capable of heroic deeds.

The members of the mini council have a diary full of duties, on top of which they have their Grade 7 responsibilities.

Still, they go about these extra duties with a palpable sense of civic pride. This augurs well for the future as these kids will be tomorrow’s leaders.

At the induction of the new council, the first speech was delivered by the deputy mini mayor. By the time young Priyanka Nayer was done with her incredible, heartfelt, sincere speech, few in the hall were untouched, many shedding a tear and choking up.

In a little more than five minutes, she showed what a tangible sense of purpose can do to ignite a young child’s sense of purpose.

More importantly, she demonstrated just how much a mission of doing good can do to develop children into responsible citizens.

Some Joburgers suffer from what those on the social circuit call event fatigue and I can understand this because many of these events have the same jaded guests listening to meandering speeches that sound as if they were approved by a committee.

What a breath of fresh air to attend events at which there were no expensive bouquets, no pretentious decor and no overbearing ushers.

When outgoing mini mayor Cassidy Gordon took to the podium, it was clear for all the parents gathered in the room that she had had the kind of experience that has a lasting effect on a young child.

Her speech focused not just on the life-changing experiences the council had had, but the difference they had made to less privileged school children, the ill and to the abused.

It is telling that these events are happening right at the beginning of the year, when there is still the time for children to learn and implement the values of their schools and their institutions.

So often things are left till the last minute and then a kind of heroism of achieving at the last minute is celebrated.

The children on the mini council are drawn from both public and private schools, and this is important given that opportunities frequently favour the privileged.

Earlier in the year, I attended my son’s Grade 8 induction at Wendywood High School. After only a week of orientation, here was an event that was not just ceremonial, but a declaration of intent.

First it was the children who went to the podium to speak, reflecting on their experiences of orientation week.

It was fascinating to see how much their speeches were already peppered with a strong sense of the school’s ethos.

Principal Margot Johnson left the scholars in no doubt that it was up to them whether they got an education. “If you do not value your education, if you are not prepared to put in the time, it’s not going to happen.”

She was tough but fair, and made it easy for them to grasp that the school’s expectations were high, but there was no reason any child should not excel if they were punctual, met deadlines, prepared ahead and developed the habit of reading books.

Some of the key values that were repeatedly emphasised included pride, responsibility, giving, success, caring and leadership.

It can never be too early to inspire the young to unite to achieve worthy goals and to engender the spirit of ubuntu implicit in so much that these young children do in their programme.

Let’s all take a moment to recognise these young tigers who are not waiting to be told what to do, but actually doing remarkable things or, as one of the children said, “doing ordinary things extraordinarily well”.

I left both events instilled with a sense of joy and deep appreciation that our young can still find within their schools’ activities their role in making ours a better world.

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