Warden’s Thoughts – Service & Leadership

Term is well under way and settling down into its rhythm. All seems to be going well…a few wobbly new boarders but that is nothing new! The weather is just about holding up, but the great memories of a long hot summer are fading.

On Saturday I was excited to be able to welcome to speak to the school one of my past pupils from South Africa. She is studying in the UK and she has a remarkable story to tell, one of resilience and faith and single-minded determination. She will go far. I was going to quote a few excerpts from her talk but it was all so good: you can read it all here or at the bottom of this page. Please take the time…it is worth it.

I am very excited that my wife and I are going to be taking a group of eighteen Form IV & V pupils back to Tiger Kloof over the October half term. Of course I am excited to be seeing old friends, but also excited to be able to introduce some of our amazing Columbans to some extraordinary young South Africans, both of whom have plenty to learn from each other. Many top schools from round the world have visited Tiger Kloof over the last 23 years because it is one of the iconic schools of South Africa: a producer of statesmen since 1904, alma mater of two national presidents and many struggle leaders, a school that chose to close itself down in 1955 rather than compromise with the racist educational policies of the apartheid government. The prime minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, the chief architect of apartheid, gave orders for the buildings to be bulldozed, but most of them survived and were restored when the school reopened in 1995. It is a great story.

The school now prides itself on its service of the local community, with its own soup kitchen and involvement in many other social projects and that is why other schools come to visit. Imagine a school having a reputation not for rugby or music or academic results, but for service. So our young Columbans are going to have a full immersion experience in serving other people, while at the same time spending lots of time with the young Tigers, many of whom come from very challenging backgrounds and from homes where the level of expectation and aspiration is very low. I hope that it will leave them a little shaken and uneasy…in a good way!

I spoke a lot when I first came here about service and about how it is not a box to tick for the Gaisce Award, or an experience that one can have on a one-off project, but about how service is a way of life, a thread that should run through everything. Last Friday we hosted a conference for 40 or so senior prefects from around Ireland on the theme of leadership and I was delighted that the team which facilitated the day focused on the idea of service leadership, which chimes with the ethos that I want to try and instil in our Columbans.

I love what Malebogo says in her talk when she challenges the pupils: ‘All of you seated here are so blessed to be equipped with the tools that will lead you exactly where you want to go. But what a lot of people fail to understand about education is that it’s a service. A service to yourself and the world you in live. We live to serve and we learn to serve people and to pursue a purpose that is bigger than ourselves. How are you using your gift of education and how do you intend on using it? Are you fulfilling the responsibilities that come with it?’

A challenge for all of us, for parents, teachers…a challenge for me.