Address to De Vrije Zee Primary School Learners – October 2008

Speaker: Lynne Brown

October 2008

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Headmaster Van der Spuy,
Teachers,
Parents,
And Learners,

HOW many of you know the meaning of the term “bitter-sweet”?

Let me give you my definition: It’s when something happens that makes you feel a little bit happy and a little bit sad – at the same time.

And today, I would imagine, is one of those days.

For the Council of Learners of 2008 …. for the teachers who have guided them so ably … for their friends and fellow learners … and even for their parents – today is a bitter-sweet day.

The sad part for all the Grade 7s is that you’re about to say goodbye to what has become like a second home to you over the past few years

But the happy part is that great things lie ahead.

The Council of Learners and fellow Grade 7s are about to start the countdown that will take you to the next exciting chapter in your journey through life.

I don’t believe that you have anything to fear.
For, having listened to the final addresses of Head Boy Therlo Lawrence and Head Girl Maajidah Hassiem I am convinced that you have been given a wonderful grounding by De Vrije Zee.

Therlo, Maajidah, you and all the other members of this year’s Council are ready to go out to make a positive contribution to the Western Cape – and to South Africa.

Perhaps we should give the outgoing Council just one more, rousing round of applause….

Learners, teachers, ladies and gentlemen – one of the most exciting races in athletics is the relay event. And it is exciting because it is a race that depends so much on perfect teamwork and precise timing, when the baton is passed from one team member to the next.

Although no race being run today, we have come here, in a sense, to witness the passing on of a baton.

Members of the Council of Learners of 2008 have done their job; and now they are handing over the reins.

I am sure that the Council of 2009, with the support of the teaching staff, their fellow learners and their parents, will do De Vrije Zee as proud as those who have served before them.

Learners, teachers, ladies and gentlemen – it is difficult to be a child in South Africa these days.

Far too many adults are far too ready to beat a booming drum about fearing failure into children. It is as if we (the adults) need them (the children) to compensate for our own shortcomings.

Children do not need this type of pressure. They are already forced to wrestle with a host of other pressures.
In fact, far too many children are faced with temptations and choices that adults of even a generation ago would never have dreamed they would have to face.

And far too many children are, sadly, just not given the time to be … children.

This afternoon, I would like to pass on this message to the new generation of leaders at De Vrije Zee … to the teachers … to the parents … and to the learners….

In the South Africa that so many of us are trying to build, there is always a new beginning … there is always a second, third, fourth or fifth chance … and there will always be opportunities waiting to be used by people who are prepared to live their dreams.

But you must try. And if you don’t succeed the first time … if you stumble and fall, get up slowly, brush yourself down, take a deep breath … and try again … and again.

But, whatever you do, do not say: “I’m not good enough.

All of us have talent. Sometimes, it is just a matter of identifying it.

Friends, as many of you probably know, South Africa is not a rich country. Far too many of our compatriots live in terrible poverty.

Poverty spawns crime – and a host of other social problems, such as vandalism at schools, drug addiction, teenage pregnancy and HIV and AIDS, all of which we (in society and government) are battling to contain.

And yet, all of us – both rich and poor – can strike a blow against poverty and all its manifestations.

And let me tell you how….

By spreading a message – through words and actions – that education is one of the most powerful tools available to fight poverty.

There are other, little things that those of us who interact with children on a daily basis can do to help turn South Africa into a great, caring country.

Educate children early about the scourge of drugs such as tik. Explain to them while they’re young that a drunk driver and a fast car make a deadly combination.

Explain to them why buying pirated copies of computer games, movies or music is like stealing.

Read to them – and encourage them to read.

But, most of all, encourage them to study hard.

For the past few years, South Africa and, indeed, the Western Cape, have been wrestling with what has been called a “scarce skills” problem

My pride, and the pride of most of us here this afternoon, would know no bounds if De Vrije Zee – through the facilities it offers and through the encouragement of its teaching staff – sparks learners into saying, on an ongoing basis: “I want to become a doctor … I want to become an engineer … I want to become a teacher….

I want to become … “

I have a special message for those who have ambitions swirling around in their heads: You can become anything you want to – if you set your minds to it.

To the learners, I want to say: “Dream, dream – and then roll up your sleeves and do, do.”

To the parents, I want to say: Encourage your children to think big … promise yourself that you’ll do everything in your power to help them realize their ambitions – even if all you can offer them is a hand to squeeze, a shoulder for them to lean on and gain strength from, or comforting words such as: “We are (or I am) with you every step of the way.”

To the teaching staff of De Vrije Zee, I would like to say: Continue to help push aside the obstacles that so many children have to confront almost daily.

Continue to encourage learners by opening their eyes to a world beyond their immediate neighbourhood. Get them to join community programmes. Encourage them to help others.

Get them excited about their future. Convince them that anything is possible….

And most important of all, start moulding and continue moulding them into young, confident, ambitious young South Africans.

To the parents here today, I would like to tell you something you already probably know: “Your children are precious. Let’s put a smile on their faces. Let’s encourage them to do the things that children should be doing.”

I would like to end this address, by wishing the Council of Learners for 2009 everything of the best.

I am convinced that this time next year, we’ll be listening to farewell speeches from the Head Boy and Head Girl that will be every bit as impressive as the speeches we heard today from Therlo and Maajidah.

And that everyone will be saying of the Council of 2009: “What a credit they have been to the school….

Thank you very much.


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