From the Head’s Desk

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Although this Newsletter doesn’t coincide exactly with the Ides of March, the correlation is very close, and the past fortnight has been a dramatic and challenging time for Cowan House and the Hilton Community. In Roman history, 15 March was the date for all annual debts to be settled, and this still roughly marks the end of the previous year of accounting and the start of a new one. Julius Caesar was famously warned before his assassination of the Ides of March by a soothsayer. We have not suffered the assassination of a Roman Caesar, but the beginning of March certainly catapulted our community, and South Africa in fact, into a new world of accountability, responsibility and vulnerability, and being at the centre stage of the Coronavirus outbreak in South Africa has been a daunting experience for all of us.

Hosting the first South African communication, and media briefing by the Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, his many medical experts, the NICD and Department of Education on the morning after the news broke was both a privilege in terms of the first-hand support offered by all experts in the field, as well as a burden of responsibility for the safety and privacy of our school, particularly for the lives of our family involved. Our thanks again to the parent body for your unwavering support on so many fronts for the protocols introduced last week. The support received has certainly been valued and is so appreciated. Thank you!

If our Cowan House microcosm is anything to measure things by, huge compassion must be extended to the
Minister of Health and his Department and the NICD for the herculean feat required of them and their trace teams in curtailing the spread of infection and responding to the many enquiries directed to them. Everyone on a local and international level is grappling for certainty in a world of constant change.

Although the gravity of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of world health, finance and the collapse of the stock market, sport, travel, in fact every aspect of life as we know it, is epic, it is often in times like these that the resilient nature of people and children in particular shines forth. Compassion, good will, cooperation and camaraderie become the champions of the day.

Teddy Bears Picnic with iThemba

On Thursday, 5 March, the Grade 5s excitedly jumped into our buses and headed off to Sweetwaters for the much anticipated Teddy Bears Picnic. Each year, the Grade 5s spend a morning at an iThemba creche where they read, sing and play with a group of toddlers and their teachers. Despite some initial apprehension, the toddlers quickly
warmed to our visit and a thoroughly enjoyable morning was shared by all.

Hunting for the Teddy Bears and decorating cupcakes were the most obvious highlights, but all the small, in between moments where kindness, sharing and laughter took place stand out for us as teachers. So much learning takes place in the unscripted moments on days like these, and we absolutely loved seeing our children interact with others in such a compassionate, loving and kind way. Our sincere thanks must be extended to our Grade 5 parents for the teddy bears, books and class funds used for the goody bags, as well as their time spent baking and cooking.

‘Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.’ – Harold S. Kushner

Outreach Projects

Kenosis Superheroes Civvies Day

Mark Emerson, past Headmaster of Cowan House, is a Project Leader of the Kenosis Community Trust and we were fortunate to have him visit the school to address our pupils on the work of the Trust. It is a Christian faithbased organisation that provides hope and help to vulnerable children in two areas of need:

  • The provision of stable family style foster care for children with foster mothers in the village.
  • The provision of early childhood education for the children of local farmworkers in communities near
    Pietermaritzburg through their ECD centre.

In support of this cause, we held a ‘Superheroes’ civvies day which generated much excitement among the girls,
boys and staff. This was a fun day that aimed to recognise the power for good we all have in us.

Interns and Mentors Orientation Day

The annual Interns’ and Mentors’ Orientation Day aims to inspire, upskill and provide platforms for collegiality and connectivity among our young teachers-in-training as well as their mentors. Julie Meiklejohn, who heads the academic programme for our Interns, always returns from the Orientation Day commenting that it is one of her favourite days of the year.

Highbury hosted this year’s meeting and our young men and women certainly returned motivated and committed to their future profession. Julie Meiklejohn reports … ‘it is always lovely seeing so many interns coming together united in the goal of self-development for their future role as educators and guardians of young people. Workshops on the day shared amazing ideas about making the classroom a conducive and healthy environment for learning and, of course, how to make this fun and enjoyable. The break-away sessions were informative and provided scope for personal areas of interest. I am confident everyone learnt something new and will implement this in their classroom.’

Sporting Achievements

On the sporting front, the following girls and boys are congratulated for their selection to various regional and provincial teams:

Cowan House Regional Hockey Representatives

uMgungundlovu Girls’ Hockey Teams

U12: Olivia Clark, Nina Rautenbach, Rachel Todd and Robyn Green (non-travelling reserve)

U13: Jade Kelly, Jasmin Kelly, Tilly Selby and Rochelle du Toit (nontravelling reserve)

Midlands Tennis Team
Jade Kelly, Jasmin Kelly and Olivia Clark.

KZN Tennis Team
Jasmin Kelly and Olivia Clark

Cowan House Regional Tennis Representatives
Cowan House Regional Swimming Representatives

uMgungundlovu Swimming Team … to complete in the KZN Championships.

Jessica Oxenham (U14), Tilly Selby and Kian Lister (U13), Nina Rautenbach, Rachel Todd, Katelyn Newlands (U12), Lexie Warr and Jo McAllister (U11).

Opening of Term 2

You would have seen in my previous correspondence that we are intending to commence Term 2 on 15 April. This is of course dependent on the situation at the time as well as Government protocols. Should we not be able to open as scheduled, staff will be engaging with classes through forms of distance education.

These will be via various forums and will include digital format, hard copy notes and workbooks, video recordings, email correspondence, Maths and English software programmes, and the like. All staff are currently hard at work preparing for a possible ‘remote start’ start to Term 2.

Cowan House will continue to educate your sons and daughters in the most effective way possible whether there is a formal national ‘start up’ to the term or not. The role of the teacher in education, whether this is facilitated through the use of a slate and chalk, a pencil, a digital device, Team Conference networks, physical / visual / auditory sources, etc. remains to ensure learning and to inspire the flame of inquiry.

On this note, all school bags and academic books, etc. should have been taken home on Tuesday to allow for the possible ‘digital teaching’ after the holidays. For those who were unable to attend school this week, classrooms will be open until this Friday for the collection of academic books, stationery and equipment.

In line with President Ramophosa’s announcements earlier this week, and subsequent directives from ISASA to curtail travel and excursions, we have decided to postpone all school outings until further notice. This will include the Grade 5, 6 and 7 trips to Seula Zimbili, Wagondrift Dam and Elandsheim. We will, if possible, reschedule these outings to times later in the year.

All that remains for me to say is have a wonderful Easter holiday with your families. Stay safe and thanks again to everyone for the wonderful support received during a very difficult time for us all.