GHS’s first male principal excited over new challenge

2018-04-16 16:15
Pietermaritzburg Girls' High School's first male principal Andrew Graaf. "If anyone would  have told me that one day I would head GHS I would have been like 'what?', but here I am today, it's unbelievable.'

Pietermaritzburg Girls' High School's first male principal Andrew Graaf. "If anyone would have told me that one day I would head GHS I would have been like 'what?', but here I am today, it's unbelievable.' (Nompilo Kunene)

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The newly-appointed principal of Pietermaritzburg Gils’ High School (GHS), Andrew Graaf, says heading an “iconic major girls’ institution” is a great honour.

Graaf is GHS’s first male principal. Having also served as Northlands Girls’ High School’s first male principal, Graaf said he has lived through all the fuss of being a thorn amongst the roses and is eager to one day celebrate an all-boys school’s first female principal.

He said being appointed as the head of GHS was still surreal for him, having grown up as a “young boykie in Maritzburg”.

“If anyone would have told me that one day I would head GHS, I would have been like ‘what?’, but here I am today, it’s unbelievable,” he said.

The Pietermaritzburg-born father of two started his career in education as an English teacher at New Forest High School in Montclair.

In 1998 he joined his former high school, Alexandra High School, as deputy principal. A decade later he was appointed as the school’s principal. In 2016 he was tasked with heading Northlands Girls’ High School and 27 months later, he was given what he describes as his “ultimate challenge”, of heading GHS.

“During my time at Northlands I found girls’ education interesting and important in a way that I had not anticipated.”

Graaf said some of the things he learnt at Northland about all-girls’ schools are how girls own their space, how they step up and how they are often very confident. He said boys are usually louder, have bigger personalities and they tend to dominate. “In a co-ed school with both genders it takes a girl with a very strong personality to compete with boys’ characters, but with girls-only schools you find that even the smallest and wariest girls are able to find their space and are confident. There is also a beautiful sisterhood that always seems to develop at all-girls’ schools which is rare to find at co-ed schools and I guess that is what I like most about girls-only schools,” he said.

Graaf said he was happy about moving back to Pietermaritzburg: “It’s like coming back home but I do feel as if the city has changed a lot in the two years I have been away.”

The reception he got from the girls and staff at GHS was warm and welcoming and he is looking forward to spending many years at the school, he said.

He defined a principal or a leader as a “climate controller”.

“I can’t make teachers teach. I can’t make pupils learn but I can try to create a climate where teachers want to teach and where pupils want to learn.”

He said GHS was already a centre of excellence, and his goal is to maintain that excellence given all the challenges faced with education in our country at the moment

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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