The legend of drakie - dr rika boucher

BY Mrs A Peltason

Dr Rika Boucher: the Legend of Drakie
“Voici mon secret. Il est très simple : on ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.”
It has been my special privilege to work alongside Dr Rika Boucher for some years now, and in all those years I have been in awe of her. This lady is no fire-breathing drakie,  but a kind, smart and structured leader, much like the ‘drakie’ she introduced to FAL Afrikaans. Why is she like her ‘Drakie’? Well, it is simple really: Drakie will not easily be forgotten; the wisdom incorporated in Drakie’s body will continue to provide learners with a foundation for structuring their writing, whether creative, transactional or literary. Drakie is about order, structure, and knowing where you are going. All these qualities apply equally to Dr Rika Boucher.
Girls, you are truly privileged to share in this moment in history which marks the parting of the ways with one of Riebeek College’s great legends, and a true doyen of Education, Dr Rika Boucher. I met Dr B, as she is fondly referred to by her girlies, when she came to Riebeek in 1988 and she struck me then as she has done ever since as being a person who is single-mindedly dedicated to giving the best and most useful learning tools to those lucky enough to be taught by her, even for one year.
What I remember most about Dr Boucher and her dear husband Hugh in those early years was the constant reference in the staff room to “ou Vatjie”, one of the Boucher’s St Bernard puppies. I felt as though I got to know ou vatjie quite well; he was always mentioned with such love by his indulgent mum. Sometimes Dr Boucher would shrug her shoulders apologetically like a mother excusing the behaviour of a naughty child because he is so cute and charming.
My heart always swelled with pride on academic occasions when Dr Boucher, resplendent in her immaculately ironed, blue and red academic doctoral hood and gown, strode down the aisle to the strains of “All Hail be to our College”.  Dr Boucher added a touch of class to such occasions, an added dimension that will be difficult, if not impossible, to measure once it is no longer there.
Girls, you could do a lot worse than  take a leaf from Dr Boucher’s book of life; you do not get to be where she is today without dedication and hard work. Yes, Dr Rika Boucher’s life, if measured by her time at Riebeek, has been a great success, but it is not the kind of success that can be calculated by material wealth and possessions. The Bible tells us to store up treasures in our hearts, for of what the heart is full, will bless overflow abundantly.  The return on investment for this legendary classroom teacher is : you, girls. Everything she has done, she has done for you, and her satisfaction has come from your success.
There is an expression in Afrikaans: ‘haar hartjie is klein’ which, translated means that she has a soft heart. Many would not equate ‘a soft heart’ with someone in charge of the discipline of the school, detentions, and demerit records, but Dr Boucher always had a soft spot for those she ‘disciplined’ and many a girl has heard the words: ‘Girlie, this is for your own good.’  You will all agree that Dr Boucher sets very high standards, but she sets them for herself before she sets them for you – and she rejoices in your every success.
I have mentioned that Dr Boucher is a doyen of the profession. The word, if you look it up, you will agree, suits our Dr Boucher perfectly: “ doyen/noun/the most respected or prominent person in a particular field.”  The field Rika Boucher chose was Language.   A great linguist herself, Rika cares deeply about language, and while she is passionate about Afrikaans, she speaks fluent French. (It might be a little rusty but she can equally appreciate the poetry of Baudelaire and  the Sestigers.)  She studied  Nederlands as well as  English, and even manages the rudiments of isiXhosa.  
Over the years Dr B has nurtured the Afrikaans Department at Riebeek College. To start with a small elite group of Afrikaans First Language Higher Grade girls achieved outstanding results, and enjoyed the added privilege of Afrikaans First Language Cultural Tours, but with the exponential growth of the IsiXhosa Department, accompanied by the shift from First Language to Home Language and Second Language to FAL, Dr Boucher changed direction, giving  all her attention to specializing in the teaching of Afrikaans FAL. For many years she has set the National Examination Papers, and will continue to moderate the Afrikaans FAL examinations, a task that takes her away from home and her beloved Hugh more often than she would like. She shared with me that with all the responsibilities of moderation, she was often at home only one weekend a month!
As a member of the SMT Dr Boucher has served Riebeek in a number of capacities:  as Academic Head and the demerit and detention guru. Hers has been the onerous task of hounding naughty girls to bring back detention letters, of auditing demerit slips so that no mistakes are made, and handing out ‘tough love’ as and when it was needed.
No one could ever accuse Rika Boucher of not caring. As a matter of fact she cared too much. She applied the same exacting standards she used for herself on everyone else. Girls and staff were often daunted by our Dr Boucher but this was always accompanied by a healthy respect, and later a glowing affection, admiration and love.
How can one measure the value of a person who knows no limits in her expectations of perfection?  Whatever Rika Boucher did, she did with passion, with her whole heart. When she coached and managed Cross Country at Riebeek, she ran alongside the girls, and few could keep up with this tireless woman. You will all agree that Dr Boucher sets very high standards, but she sets them for herself before she sets them for you – and she rejoices in your every success.
In later years I saw Rika Boucher mellow and reveal the softer side that had always been there, lurking below the surface. Her succession of family pets will testify that ‘haar hartjie is klein’.  What is it that moves this lady?  She has been a school leader as Subject Head, Grade Head, Head of Department and Acting Deputy Principal, and all these achievements have added value to her life, but, I feel quite confident in saying this: What moves this lady most are the little things: gestures, notes of appreciation and thanks, seeing you succeed, seeing all of you grow and shape yourselves into leaders of the future, and most of all, the little acts of kindness that might go unnoticed in a day. These things she holds dear and these are the things she has shored  up in her heart.
Allow me to share the wisdom of Le Petit Prince by Antoine de St Exupery:
 “Tu deviens responsable pour toujours de ce que tu as apprivoisé”. 
(You become responsible for ever for that which you tame.)
You have seen into many hearts at Riebeek and you have tamed us, and now you are for ever responsible for those hearts you have tamed. Remember us tenderly as you travel to those faraway romantic places you have always wanted to visit, and like the Little Prince, we know you will make friends wherever you go. 
Dr Boucher, I salute you, the school salutes you, and we shall miss you like the land yearns for rain.

 July 29, 2017
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Mrs A Peltason

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