Valedictory Speech – Azraa Rockman, 2020

BY Azraa Rockman

We blinked once… twice… and in a little less than an instant later, it was all over. We closed our eyes for a moment, and upon reopening them, we found ourselves here, seated beside one another, just as we had envisioned for so long.
Parents, teachers, my beloved fellow Valedictorians, I would like to begin by extending the warmest welcome that I could possibly muster. No feeling could amount to the immense pride that resides in me for having been given the opportunity to relay the story that celebrates our nine years of growth. In the years leading to ours, we witnessed Valedictories come and go, and with each passing year, we grew all the more impatient. We could not wait until it was our time to sit on that stage, could not wait until we could finally leave it. It was as if each passing year made the sweet scent of freedom all the more taunting. And now, here we are, at one of the last pit stops before the end is with us.
However, to get to the end, I think it is only right to first acknowledge the beginning, because surely, that is where all of the greatest stories start. Now, I may be biased, but in all honesty, no one made ankle-length maroon skirts and oversized blazers look as good as the Grade 4 Class of 2012. It was at this point in our lives where we could share BBM pins faster than we could share a packet of WikiNaks. And even then, ETV had proven to be the place to be on a Sunday night at 8. If Q-Lynn were here today, she probably would not admit coming to school crying after her 8pm experience, which entailed having to bear the second-hand trauma that came with watching Jack die in the Titanic. To summarise: we all miss Q-Lynn.
Grade 5 seemed to be an awkward space for us, because suddenly we were devoid of the attention that was paid to us the year before. However, still we were determined to make the year our own, with or without being placed in the limelight. A little bit into the second term and the 5C Afrikaans class was sure that Alexandra and Sanelisiwe would drop the mixtape of the decade, after confirming that the opening lyrics to their title track were: “Broken eyes. Rotten nose. Een-en-twintig dags tot holiday… Yo.”
And considering the fact that we were quite an enthusiastic bunch to begin with, it was merely a given that momentum would pick up in Grade 6. Those lucky enough to have witnessed the strange sequence of events may remember Vishani’s acts of heroism as she climbed through the window of Miss Johnson’s class to get  Breslyn Byrne’s lunch bag during break. Vishani had also shown us in the following year that throwing a bomb of bicarb and water at Phillipa Robinson was not the best way forward. Keeping in mind the amount of tears that spilled after that single incident, no one was seen with a bicarb bomb ever since.
Those who remained at Riebeek carried their swagger into Grade 8, while the new girls seemed to quickly adjust to their new home. And perhaps Lutho found the furniture a bit too comfortable, considering the fact that she’d fallen right off her chair during SS after apparently trying to imitate the grace of a butterfly.
Fast forward to Grade 9, and Samantha claimed to have been going through a “phase”, spelled out clearly by her fresh but fierce haircut and her freshly shaven eyebrows – her own doing, might I just add. In an attempt to alleviate the damage, Brazil tried her best to draw Sam’s eyebrows back on with a permanent maker. Glad to see that you’ve grown out of that phase, Sam.
Vena remembers joining forces with Uya Lupondwana and Kelly in hiding everyone’s pencil cases and putting them all in Teneal’s desk. Vena would also like me to put forward that she’s still holding receipts against Justine and Zhané for telling Miss Mintoor that she had hidden the whole class’s SS textbooks, even though everyone supported that Vena should go ahead with the prank to begin with.
Even with the new surge of pressure that came with the dynamics of Grade 10, the 10Cs were privileged enough to get regular visits from Mr Kobus, Mr Weidemann’s alter ego, who steered us away from Romeo and Juliet to teach us a bit of philosophy here and there.
However, our fun times were short lived by the time that Grade 11 entered the group chat. We had barely taken two steps into the year and the Maths girls were already dancing to the tune of Mr Bacon’s imaginary guitar. While his stay was fleeting, his presence still wafted in the air for a while, thanks to Onesimo’s Oscar-worthy Mr Bacon impersonations, as offered during Science lessons. On the basis of our Science class’s affinity for danger and Mrs Kruger’s depleting patience, the highlight of our year was probably our class fire, among the others that Anda had caused on Mrs Kruger’s laptop while constructing them on the Phet Simulation games. While I could go on bragging about the unparalleled supply of laughs that came out of the Science lab, the 11Gs would like Miss Pot to know that never will they forget the time that “Cumberland” became “Cucumberland” during Macbeth reading sessions.
Soon enough, the doors opened to a whole new universe. And with that, we had come to realise that Matric looked way better when we were admiring it from a distance. Up close and personal, and the workload became a bit too much to balance with the added stress of trying our best to balance in our nurse shoes. However, even when we were thrown out of orbit, we still gravitated back towards each other. Together we faced the negative effects of a global pandemic, but upon our return to familiar grounds, it was almost as if the national lockdown had no effect on the bond we shared before. This became all the more clear to me upon writing this speech and upon feeling the sincerity behind the messages a few of you wanted to share with your friends and teachers:
Samantha, Kelly would like you to know you that she will always treasure you in her heart for being the light that keeps her going daily.
Romesa and I would like to thank Jodi-Leigh, Kayla, Robyn and Naomi for being both a source of comfort and care even in the darkest of times.
To Mrs Ferreira from the heart of Vena, she would like you to know that she loves and appreciates you so much and that she will miss you as much as much as she will miss the Consumers Pracs. Vena would also like to thank Mrs Stear for being the coolest Grade 7 Maths ever, even though she never liked Maths at all.
Mr Bowles’ Maths Lit Class would like to express their gratitude for all the laughs and amazing times they shared. They would also like to apologise for never doing their prescribed work in class.
On behalf of the Fake Scientists, I would like to thank Mrs Kruger, our favourite “girl hunter” in her absence, for learning to love us even on days where it was quite difficult. The Fake Scientists would also like to say that we miss Onesimo, our Uitenhage Einstein, very much and that we appreciated the time we did spend with you, because if you didn’t answer questions in class, no one else would have.
I, too, have a few people to thank.
First and foremost, I would love to take this opportunity to thank my parents, the two pieces that make up the whole of me. To my father, my mirror image when it comes to striving for perfection, thank you for showing me the leader within me, and for having more faith in me in times where I had my doubts. We are both stubborn, but you have undoubtedly assisted in shaping me so that I can forever strive to be the best version of myself. And my dearest mother, the lighter side of my heart--my best friend.  Your unconditional love and unparalleled support has steered me along even the darkest of paths. You have a beautiful soul and a tremendous mind, and I do hope that I can hold your heart close to mine for the remainder of this life and the whole of the Hereafter.
I would also like to thank Mrs Stear and Mrs Snyman, whose offices had become my first stop almost every break before Lockdown began. Thank you for keeping your doors open to me and my team. Although our term of service was short-lived, you have taught us enough about leadership to last us a lifetime, and no amount of thanks could ever be enough.
To Mrs Peltason, Mrs Gerber and Mrs Stroebel my Golden Trio of mentors, and of course all of my teachers, both those who have taught me and those who have not. I seem to find a lesson in every experience I have with each and every one of you, and I cannot thank you enough.
To my prefect body: I hope that the little time that we all did spend together as leaders had treated you well. I know that we had faced a multitude of challenges as a team and as individuals, but these were only few of the challenges we are yet to face. May your path be illuminated wherever you wish to travel.
Chaneal, my confidant, my cute and fluffy Chanealie-Poo: No words can describe how grateful I am to have had such a charismatic soul by my side when I needed it most. The amount of energy you possess exceeds any possible human understanding, but I hope that you never lose your shine, because at the end of the day, that is what separates you from the rest of the world. So keep shining, my friend.
Finally, to my fellow warriors, the Class of 2020: we have waited so long for this year and now we find ourselves near its end. Thank you for not giving up on yourselves and thank you for having faith in the fact that we would all see each other at the finish line. We will often look back to this year and find ourselves wondering if perhaps we could have done something better, maybe said something better, wished that something did not happen when it, in fact, did. It is, however, important to know that you are not your mistakes, but that those mistakes rather contributed towards your growth and to who you are now. Remember that the best version of yourself is waiting for you far ahead, somewhere over the greyish horizon. And even if the road ahead is embedded with thorns, keep going. Run.
I would love to wish Wade-Lee and the Prefects of 2021 a blessed year of leadership. The road ahead is not an easy one to travel, but I have full faith in the fact that you and your team will keep your heads high until the very end.

 November 03, 2020
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