ONLINE FOUNDERS’ DAY ADDRESS 2021

I would like to warmly welcome all Riebeek old girls, past and present staff members, past principals, parents, those who hold the premier award of the school, the Freedom of Riebeek College, and of course our current Riebeek girls to this online celebration of the founding of our school 144 years ago. Founders’ Day celebrations was started in 1988 by my mother in law, Mrs Natalie Stear, and 2020 was the first time that a ceremony was not held to mark this day.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the whole country was in hard lockdown, but we did have a few celebrations on our social media platforms. Little did we imagine that one year later we would still be in the grips of this virus and hence would be celebrating online again in 2021.
 
In this online Founders’ Day celebration, I would like to address with a verbal and visual tour of our news and our school.  I am sure this will bring back many fond memories for our Old Girls! You will be hearing messages from our junior Head Girl, Ra-eesa Abrahams and senior Head Girl, Wade-Lee Muller and will be treated to the delightful singing of the school song and another song called This is Me by a group of Grade 11 girls, as well as some scenes of some rowdy, enthusiastic classes. I hope you are sitting back and enjoying our 2021 Founder’s Day with us as we wish the grand old dame that is Riebeek a happy birthday.
 
I am sure that you are aware that this past year has been a most challenging one in educational circles internationally.  The entire face of schooling and education did a 180⁰ turn and educators and learners were forced to engage with teaching and learning in an entirely new way. Gone were sports and extra murals, gone were tuckshop treats, school uniforms, second breaks, register classes, assemblies, prayer meetings, physical education classes, celebratory days such as House Days and Prize Giving. A new era had dawned and in came social distancing, masks, sanitisers, new timetables, large classroom venues or split classes, one way corridors, civvies, platooning with some grades at home for a bit every now and again, queuing to have your temperature taken by a thermal scanner, screening forms, toilet registers for track and trace purposes.  With this came heightened anxiety, loneliness and insecurity.  However, the traits that make Riebeek family members stand out also came to fore and we saw resilience, compassion, adaptability, tenacity and independence come to the fore and we are so proud of the way we all rose to the challenges posed, with some demonstrating these positive traits in extremely trying circumstances.  We reached the end of 2020 exhausted but with the feeling that we had made it through to the other side. As Nerine Loock, our consulting psychologist, put it: We had seen the finish line and put a last push in to get to it, only to have the finish line move and we had to start the race over.  So it was that 2021 heralded more safety precautions with a second wave of the pandemic and fears of a third wave, and we resumed schooling in the same manner in which we ended 2020.
To keep our spirits buoyant, we adopted for the Theme of the Year, “HOPE FLOATS”. Without hope, we are lost, so at Riebeek we are kept afloat by the hope inside of us. When you have hope, you have possibilities.  In order for us to believe in the future and to step into it with confidence, we need the support of those nearest and dearest to us. Then hope floats.
Pope Francis wisely said recently, “To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, security in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but to be happy in anonymity.”
It is my hope that we will take the lessons learnt from the pandemic and use them to create a better world. It is evident that we cannot return to the world as it was before. The pandemic did expose the inequalities in education, not only in South Africa, but throughout the world. The digital divide revealed that educational institutions that were fortunate to be digitally literate with access to internet Wi-Fi and data could continue to educate remotely. This deepened this divide.
One of the strongest messages coming through since the start of the pandemic is that our common humanity necessitates global solidarity. The magnitude of this challenge is clearly evident with regard to the digital divide in Africa. For example, only 11% of learners in sub-Saharan Africa have a household computer and only 18% have household internet, as compared to the 50% of learners globally who have computers in the home and the 57% who have access to internet. South Africa is lagging behind in becoming active participants in a world where digital learning has become the ‘new normal’.
The COVID-19 pandemic does offer us a chance to restructure education in such a way as to be inclusive of the needs of all learners.  Inclusive & quality education is one of the most powerful means to achieve sustainable development. This makes it important to adequately equip the country’s education system and enable it to respond to the changing needs of teaching and learning. Educator roles have to be transformed and educators have to adapt to new pedagogical concepts and ways of delivering teaching, for which they might not have been trained. To be able to respond to the needs of society and education, teaching offerings will need to be revisited.  If this chance to restructure education for the benefit of all children is missed, the education crisis will worsen and the disparity between privileged and impoverished pupils become even more noticeable.
Here at Riebeek we must make sure that we keep moving forward and that we remain relevant in all that we do.  I can honestly say that I am proud when I  think of the ways the teachers and learners structured their work in ways that worked for us.  WhatsApp, YouTube clips, PowerPoints, audio voice notes and crash courses all became our new normal as we made sure our learners could learn with minimum data and with  the knowledge that they were not alone – their teachers were even willing to learn to use Zoom and Teams to reach them - or whatever method it  took. 
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Old Girls who generously made donations towards the costs of our sanitization and masks.  Times are tight and our budget is stretched tight, so help from the Old Girls means so much to us.  We thank you too for your continued support of our endeavours, your encouragement on our social media platforms of our Girls and Staff and the difference you are making in the community by spreading the Riebeek Magic Formula of compassion, positivity, confidence, empathy and innovation.  Please keep sharing your good news with us and enjoy our nostalgic posts on our social media platforms and website. 
One of the songs you will be hearing in this video is a unique harmonizing by our girls of the song This is Me from The Greatest Showman, and I say to you as the song lyrics do: …
 I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
And so, it is that this is us, this is Riebeek.  It is in the belief that hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality. At this Founder’s Day 2021, I wish for you courage and hope!  Stay safe, and happy birthday to us!
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head girl's address

I am Wade-Lee Muller, Head Girl of 2021, and I would like to extend our warmest greetings and best wishes to our old girls, present learners, and the Riebeek family.
Our theme this year, Hope Floats, means to me that though we might feel as if we are tossed and turned in an unpredicted storm right now-with the choice of courage and hope, we can look beyond the chaos and we’ll be sure to discover light floating around us and within us amidst the storm we find ourselves in.
When I think of Founder's days of the past, I think of it being a day of celebration of where we have come from and how we as a school have grown throughout the years. I remember it to be a day that holds so much reminiscing of past years and reuniting it with new ones. There would always be plenty of old girls who attended in their reunion groups and a game of hockey between the old 1st team hockey would play against the current 1st team hockey. But I’m sure most learners would remember the donuts and juice we received from the school.
Although, this year it may be different but to me what remains true is the growth and memories Founders Day holds. We may not be able to meet altogether in person but our memories will last forever. What we can stand firm on is the fact of “Once a Riebeek girl, always a Riebeek”.
Since our reunion groups are not visiting us this year, I would like to share with you what has been happening at our school since March 2020.  We started the year 2020 with the theme of ‘What a Wonderful World’ and what a time to have been reminded of how precious our world is and how we should appreciate it more because now we know how instantly things may turn upside down. That turning point for us was in March 2020 when the uprising of the Coronavirus took us all by shock and we as a nation had entered lockdown. Our national ‘family meetings’ with President Cyril Ramaphosa kept everyone informed about the Pandemic. On the other hand, at Riebeek, Mrs. Stear and the staff, through the school's social media platforms, kept in touch with the girls throughout the time of uncertainty in trying to bring as much clarity on the how the future would look for our school. The Riebeek staff and learners indeed adapted to this new way of living with true Riebeek Resilience. Though we were apart from one another the teachers and learners were thankfully still able to remain connected through the schools D6 communicator, class WhatsApp groups and zoom calls. In 2020 Riebeek welcomed four new members to the family, Mrs. Haynes-Africa, Mr. Vincent Koekemoer, Miss Olifant, and Mrs. Goeiman.
In June 2020 the integration of the Matrics and Grade 7s took place and then gradually on a week off and on basis the rest of the other grades we integrated. It was during this time that sanitizing stations, screening forms and face masks became mandatory. The Riebeek staff adjusted to these requirements so effortlessly by seeking ways to make our adaption to this “new norm” as comfortable as possible. Learners would have less venues to attend as our teachers would move between lessons to ensure less contact and more social distancing. Throughout this year, many things were taken away but some things remained and just had to be adapted to our new circumstances. Our Cultural civvies day and the Club assembly was held online, the Matric 40 days was celebrated safely and the SPCA Committee had their tin collections at the end of the year in supporting the SPCA with the donations collected.
The year 2020 was indeed a tough year for our 2020 Matrics who endured through many months of studying at home on their own. However, through it all they persevered and we are proud to announce Riebeek's 98.9% pass rate. Congratulations to our top achievers: Teneal Rudman with 7 Distinctions, Azraa Rockman with 5 Distinctions and Sanelisiwe Dili with 4 Distinctions. What a way to enter the year of 2021 with so much hope from the achievements of the Class of 2020 that displayed pure Riebeek resilience. Although we find ourselves in a new year living in a pandemic, hope still floats. There are still limited grades at school per week but we are continuing to adapt and giving hope a chance to float up. The highlights thus far for 2021 is the Grade 4 Welcoming that was planned by the 2021 Senior Prefects, the gradual return of Sports, the 2021 Prefects induction was held and committees are introducing exciting online campaigns. These developments are evident to our theme this year of “Hope Floats”. So let us continue to hope in 2021 as in the words of Barak Obama, "Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is Gods greatest gift to us. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead”

In closing, I wish you all safety and good health. And may you remember to “give hope a chance to float up”.
Thank you


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