Principal's welcome - founder's day 2017

BY Mrs K. Stear

Our guest of honour, Zikhona Bali,
Those who hold the premier award of the school, the Freedom of Riebeek College,
Special guests, especially our reunion groups and two past Principals, Mrs Natalie Stear and Mrs Marilyn Woods
Ladies and Gentlemen
and Ladies of Riebeek College.
I welcome you all to this 29th Founders Day Service and the anniversary of the founding of our school 140 years ago. Marcus Garvey said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without roots.” How wonderful it is to have the opportunity of uniting the past and the present by honouring our roots, our past history. What a privilege it is to pay tribute to all those who have made a contribution to Riebeek College because our 140 years of success is after all the sum of all the contributions of our founding father and all who have been a part of its history.
It is a time when we remember with gratitude the founder of Riebeek College, Dominee Braam Steytler of the NG Kerk in Uitenhage, who gave his name to the town of Steytlerville. He planted the seeds and gave Riebeek her roots in his drive to establish a quality school for girls. Fortunately, for all of us his efforts were successful and Riebeek continues to thrive as she grows.
Back then, 140 years ago, women were considered to be inferior to men. Can you believe that, girls? Men better than women? I don’t think so. Life was not easy for women in those days. They had to endure sexism on a daily basis.
Women were only admitted into universities for the first time in the late 1870s and we are proud  that one of our former Principals, Mrs Agnes Thomson, was the first woman in South Africa to gain a degree. In 1889 she completed her Masters Degree with distinction at Cambridge University. However, she only had her degree conferred upon her 60 years later as no woman in the 19th century was allowed to receive such a degree.
It was in 1930 that women in South Africa were allowed to vote, and sadly African women had to wait even longer. Married women teachers were only given professional status in 1980. These married women were paid less than their male counterparts and could not be part of the permanent staff until the 1980s. Thus, we ought to be grateful to our founder for recognising the need to educate women.
In addition to our founding member and the NG Kerk, we pay tribute to all the past Principals who helped to shape the history of this school. We are honoured to have 2 past Principals here today. Mrs Natalie Stear, Principal from 1988 to 2000, and also my Mother-in Law. In her tenure, the tradition of a Founder’s Day Service was started, in 1988. In addition to this, she oversaw Riebeek College being the first then Model C school to vote to open her doors to all races in 1990. The second past Principal present here today is Mrs Marilyn Dodd Woods. During her time as Principal, she coined the phrase, “Once a Riebeek Girl, ……. …. rooting us in another proud tradition. The new admin block was built and named the Marilyn Dodds Woods Wing and we all became familiar with the fruit of the spirit.
Riebeek continues to produce admirable young woman who make us proud of our roots. These young women have discovered, that like a tree, you have to find your roots and then you can bend in the wind. Hlomela Bucwa (Class of 2010) was sworn in as the youngest South African parliamentarian and Noni Agcobile Mafani Mbete (Class of 2008) was crowned Mrs Africa World. Zikhona Bali (Class of 2007) lights up our television screens starring in productions such as IS'THUNZI. Bernadette Maguire is a Carte Blanche producer. And in future years I will look forward to reading out the names of the girls seated here in the hall who I know are going to go out there and make a great impact.
We have a number of staff members at Riebeek College who now teach at their Alma Mater. They are Mrs Skeates, Miss Johnson, Miss Hattingh, Mrs Chrysostomou , Mrs Woods, Mrs Stroebel, Mrs Peltason and Mrs Gerber. The fruit has not fallen far from the tree! Mrs Boscombe and Mrs Barnard in the Admin block and Mrs Wilkinson from the Aftercare at the hostel,are also Riebeek Old Girls. That makes a total of 8 Old Girls teaching at Riebeek and 11 in total working here.
A number of the staff’s children have also been educated at Riebeek College; Mr.Reynold, Mrs Stark, Mrs Elie, Mr Jonas, Mrs Myburgh, Mrs Bean, Mrs Pelatason, Mrs Boscombe, Mrs Wilkinson and my own 2 elder daughters were schooled at Riebeek. My eldest daughter, Clare, who was deputy Head Girl in 2002 , is here today and is celebrating her 15th school reunion.
The silver bee that I am wearing, has become part of the culture and tradition of Riebeek College. It has become a tradition to read Mrs Rose Loggenbergs Hatman’s letter written in 1999 recounting the origin of the Silver Riebeek “Bee” Pin motif. She wrote:
“Miss Brehm, who was a staff member of the school, while on a visit to London, commissioned a jeweler to fashion the “Bee” into a brooch, intending that it be worn as part of the school uniform. This idea proved to be non-feasible and she contented herself that only one be made for her. One day, while on a visit to our home, she presented this to my sister, Dorothy, who treasured it as a gift from a valued family friend. Subsequently, Dorothy handed “The Bee” to Miss Bartlett, intending it should be held in trust for each succeeding Headmistress of Riebeek College to be worn when the occasion deemed it fitting. I think this was a happy gesture lending an added charm to the tradition. It only remains for me to wish you a most successful, memorable and joyous linking of hands with the past on this day, and that Riebeek College continues its successful path into the future”.
In welcoming you today to this linking of hands with the past, I am proud to be standing here  as the 15th lady principal of Riebeek College. I have no doubt that Riebeek will flourish in future years as her roots are well grounded.
So I encourage each one of you to be like a tree;
Stay grounded
Connect with your roots
Turn over a new leaf
Bend before you break
Enjoy your unique natural beauty
Keep Growing.

 May 08, 2017
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2017 continued
Mrs K. Stear

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