Wynberg Boys’ High School bids farewell to principal
As he delivered his final address to the pupils, outgoing Wynberg Boys’ High School principal Jan de Waal paid tribute to the “incredible spirit of our boys”.
Jan de Waal, the 14th headmaster of the school, spoke at the end of the school year and the closing days of the school’s 180th founding celebrations.
He will be retiring from the helm of what he says is one of South Africa’s greatest schools.
Reflecting on his tenure, he says it had been a challenging six years during which he faced a number of unexpected challenges. It started during the taxing 175th celebrations with two fires in the space of three months (“School picks up pieces after blaze”, August 11, 2016). In one of the fires the school’s academic block was gutted.
The fires were followed by a storm that closed schools across the peninsula. Then came the drought and the final cherry on the top has been almost two years of Covid, said Mr De Waal.
And yet there have been good times. As part of the schools 175th anniversary celebrations, Mr De Waal and the junior school principal Cedric Poleman treated guests to an evening of music, food, light-hearted speeches and tasting of the Oude Wijnberg Shiraz, produced the previous year from their private vineyard (“Wynberg Boys’ 175th celebrations”, March 24, 2016).
Earlier this year the school opened its R32 million engineering and design faculty (“Engineering and design facility for Wynberg school”, Bulletin February 11).
Mr De Waal said he could not have coped if not for the support of the staff who are always willing to go the extra mile. He then thanked the “heart and soul of the school, you the students”.
“The most notable thing about Wynberg Boys’ High School is the incredible spirit of our boys. It is infectious and inspirational and that is what inspired me to come to work every day, to watch all those sports matches, and attend all those cultural and service events. The Wynberg ’gees’ is legendary and truly something special that you cannot understand unless you experience it,” said Mr De Waal.
He said when trying to describe this spirit he would say “they never give up, they have an incredible fighting spirit, they support each other, they always try their best. These are all qualities that we include in our understanding of our motto: Supera Moras – overcoming difficulties,” said Mr De Waal.
He then showed a video that reminded him of what a real Wynberg man is like. It showed a badger with a python trying to squeeze the life out of it. Suddenly two jackals appear and momentarily distract the python, giving the badger the opportunity to escape. “Now, this is where I think the badger really shows the true Wynberg character. You would think that after escaping from such a deadly situation the badger would get away from there as quickly as possible,” said Mr De Waal.
Instead, the badger attacks the python and drags it into the bushes while also fighting off the two jackals who also want to share the spoils.
“Wynberg men do not just overcome adversity. They thrive in adversity and turn situations to their advantage when faced with tremendous odds. To me, this badger-like approach is exactly how Wynberg has responded to the various crises we have faced together over the last six years. When you find yourself in such a position I want you to think of the badger. Never give up, overcome the challenge, and use it to your advantage,” he said.