Valedictory Speech 2018 by the principal

BY Mrs Stear

When the country was in the grip of the spirit and fun of the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the Riebeek school magazine theme was Ubuntu and a group of the sweetest, most innocent faced Grade 4s joined our school. They would become the Class of 2018 seated before us today. In their matric year, the school celebrated the spirit of Ubuntu as a theme and these less innocent but sometimes still sweet, young ladies now prepare to leave this place of Ubuntu, this place of inter-connectivity and compassion. 
It takes a village to raise a child, they say in the Ubuntu philosophy. What a village the Riebeek community is! There are supportive parents, supportive teachers and admin staff who have become school parents to the girls. We of the Riebeek village who have raised children are always asking ourselves, “What do we want our children to learn?” Being an all girls’ school, we are passionate about ensuring our girls learn what they need to make a difference in the world. 
As a parent of 4 girls myself, and a grandmother, I have had many moments of thinking, “What do I want my daughters to know?” In fact, I don’t speak boy at all. Never have. Not a word. My son, James, has had to become literate in girl speak! Because I’m obviously girl, and I happen to have 4 girls of my own and close to 800 daughters at school, I speak fluent girl. The thing about knowing girl speak is that I have learnt it is ageless. It does not matter what era you grew up in because as much as society evolves from generation to generation, the core of human experience is still the same. And I think you need to know that. Even though my daughters and I grew up decades apart, we face some ever-lasting challenges and I get how hard it is to be a girl. My own daughters are often astonished when I am able to identify with them on certain challenges that they face because they say that I grew up in the Olden Days! 
I have read countless versions of what it is we should want our girls to know, and I will share some of those that I find important for our own daughters and our Riebeek daughters, to know, especially today, the Class of 2018, who have no more class lessons, but this final Riebeek lesson from me to you.
Our attitude toward life will determine life’s attitude toward us.
Everything in life is about your response to life’s problems and the situations you find yourself in. If you think life is unfair, chances are that life will treat you unfairly. You attract in your life that which you think about all day long, you attract that which you are, because like attracts like. A beautiful attitude towards life was revealed in Sinovuyo Madlavu when she wrote for her matric profile that a lesson she had learnt was that Grace is learning not to envy someone else’s blessings. Sinovuyo, by believing that, you have indeed shown grace in your time at Riebeek and have received many envy-worthy blessings.
Life is all about the journey and less about the destination.
Much of the time we get so focused on our big dreams and goals that we forget to enjoy this journey called life. Always remember that life is all about this moment. Life is not all about where we are going but about how we are getting there, about the journey not the destination. So take a deep breath and allow yourself to be present in everything you do. Allow yourself to enjoy each second of your life – to observe the world around you, the people present in your life and the beauty that is present within and all around you. Asiphile Jack and Anesipho Nono learnt that there is always something you can do and succeed at when in grade 4 they did not qualify for the first or second mini-hockey teams and Miss Smith decided to put them in the Elephant and Buffalo team and said that they were very good players! The Elephant and Buffalo teams had not existed up until that moment.
Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself.
Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself, to be at peace, to be happy and to be able to sleep at night. You don’t forgive because you are weak but because you are strong enough to realize that only by giving up on resentment will you be happy. If you hold on to poisonous thoughts like hate, anger, and resentment toward someone, you will end up poisoning yourself more than you poison the other person, and you will be very unhappy. So, Olwethu Dlutu, who wrote that a lesson learnt in her life was not to wear too much neon coloured clothing as you will end up looking like a walking highlighter, I think it is time to forgive neon coloured clothing, Olwethu, but looking at your bright temperament and colourful Matric Farewell outfit, it seems to me that you have.
People deserve a second chance.
The moment you forgive somebody, you start to give them a second chance, a chance to be near you, without trying to remind them of what they did to you, treating them not as they are, but rather as you want them to be. By doing this, you are also allowing them to grow and to become better every day. Your ego might tell you to “let these people go” but what does your heart tell you? Carison Kramer wrote that one of the AIKHONA things in her life is people who touch her with their feet. Carison, it is time to give those people a second chance.
Loneliness is different from solitude.
There is a difference between being lonely and being in solitude. When you are in solitude, you take advantage of it to get in touch with your inner self, to meditate and to quieten your mind. We can never be lonely if we like the person we’re alone with. If you like yourself, if you have no problem with your own person, you will be content with having some quiet time, away from all the noise. And there is a lot of noise. I notice your generation tries to fill silences with responses. Learn to reflect not react. Learn to detach from the information overload around you. Be offline and unavailable sometimes. In grade 4 Khanyisile Gayika wrote, “I know I am a good girl because when people I don’t know sit alone, I feel broken sorry for them.” It is wonderful that you cared for the lonely, Khanyisile, but maybe that they were seeking solitude and we should too!
The next lesson for my daughters is about how you see yourself.
Peer pressure is about Insecurity. Be confident in who you are and you will never have to fit in. Naqeesha Koester seems to have learnt this from Mrs Stark because she wrote, “Mrs Stark, has inspired me to be “be-you-tiful” and taught me never to compromise my happiness to please others. I admire her confidence and the class and elegance with which she does everything.” If you are confident, people will be drawn to you. Only dead fish go with the flow. Also, don’t compare yourself to the people around you. There is always going to be someone thinner, taller, more beautiful or smarter than you. The only person you need to impress is you. I remember a friend bemoaning the fact that her child would not listen to the stories the Grade R teacher read and would interrupt to ask about the tiny bug in the corner of the picture which was totally irrelevant to the story. I listened to her wishing that he would fit in and asked: “But do you really want him to be just like everyone else?” It was a turning point for this mother – the truth is we were born to stand out, not fit in and we should celebrate more those who see the world differently not those who see it the same way as every other person! 
Playing versus Adulting and all the small stuff
Those who know me well know that I believe that you should not sweat the small stuff. Adults can take everything so seriously, and they lose focus on what is important. I don’t want you all to get old too soon, weighed down by inconsequential things. I want you to learn to keep your inner child. Play. Refuse to grow up completely. Adulting is not as cool as the tall people make it out to be. Believe in Santa, Easter Bunny and hang upside down on swings. Nowhere is it written that we are supposed to stop playing and being young at heart. When you feel yourself being OLD think of Mateenah Langford dressed up as Peter Pan at the Team Building afternoon and resolve to never grow old. Celebrate birthdays with the excitement of a toddler, celebrate Heritage Day with an awesome braai, be flamboyant in your child like enthusiasm for big occasions. 
Courage and Fear
I know that you are scared about finals and that some of you are scared to be leaving the familiarity of Riebeek. Courage is not the absence of fear. Fear will always be present in our lives. Even though we know that fear is only in our minds, we choose to be paralyzed by it and we choose to allow it to control our lives, our dreams, our goals and the level of our happiness. Fear will be present whenever you want to stretch, whenever you want to get out of your comfort zone and whenever you want to do more, be more, have more. What we want from our daughters of Riebeek is look beyond the fear, and be aware that most of the things we fear never happen. 
Patience is a virtue.
In order for anything to happen, we need to be patient. We first plant the seed of greatness and then we wait for it to grow, we allow it to grow; we take care of it and we protect it. Great things take time and we need to learn how to give time, time. We live in a world of instant gratification and immediate responses on social media … in fact, people get quite upset if you do not immediately reply to a message. Slow down, do not want everything straight away. Wait for it with patience. I think Leilah Mohamed has had to learn that patience is a virtue because for her Grade 4 profile, she wrote that she can’t wait till she’s allowed to kiss a boy. 
I want my Riebeek daughters to know stuff about boys:
I want you to have financial independence from men. No matter how madly you love him, keep a nest egg aside, a monetary safety so that you are not a victim of abuse because of financial dependency. I also want you to know that if a boy expects you to be the person he wants you to be and not the person you are, then dump him. When in Grade Four, the Class of 2018 were asked to write on the topic: I know a girl has a crush on a boy when…” and Abongile Bulo wrote, “He says, Hey baby!” and Kelly Pullen wrote, “She blushes, giggles, talks in a squeaky voice and puts her head on one of his shoulders.” Buhle Somandi said “When he shows the girl his muscles.” I want you to know one of my best bits of advice: If a man whistles at you, do not respond. You are a lady, not a dog!
My final life lesson for my daughters is about bringing hope in a hopeless world and being the light in a broken world.
In the year of celebrating 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela, we are reminded that his legacy is huge because he gave hope to people in dark and difficult times. We live in negative and critical times. Do not let it make you angry. Do not let it defeat you. 
L R Knost wrote this poem:
“Do not be dismayed
By the brokenness
Of the world.
All things break.
And all things
Can be mended.
Not with time, as they say,
But with intention.
Do go. Love intentionally,
The broken world waits
In darkness for the light
That is within you.”
The world waits in darkness and needs you, the Class of 2018, to be the light. We have taught you all you need, it is now time for you to go out there and live the lessons we have gifted you with, and be the light.

 October 13, 2018
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