Official Opening and Blessing Service of the Vuleka St Joseph's Archbishop Thabo Makgoba School for Boys in Sophiatown on 5 April 2016:
Good morning boys! Good morning parents, teachers, clergy of the Diocese, and the whole school community!
Bishop Steve, bishop of the Diocese, Melanie Sharland, the managing director of Vuleka Schools, Bishop Peter, chair of the Anglican Board of Education, Roger Cameron, the CEO of the board, board members present, heads of schools, ISASA and all of you who are with us today, allow me to acknowledge in particular President Kgalema and and Mrs Gugu Motlanthe. As some of you may know, President Motlanthe started school at St Michael's Anglican School in Alexandra, which became Pholosho after the Bantu Education Act was passed. He never supports to fail me in educational endeavours as a fellow Pholosho/St Michael's alumnus.
Looking back on what has happened since that tradition was smashed in 1955, when our schools were closed by the Bantu Education Act, and on the historic significance of re-establishing church-sponsored education in Sophiatown, we can truly say, as we heard in the lesson from Isaiah, that the Holy One of Israel has been our Saviour. Truly, he was with us when we passed through the waters; he did not allow the rivers to overwhelm us; when we walked through the fire we were not burned, nor did the flame consume us. No, we need not have feared because he has redeemed us.
The official opening of this school today marks an important milestone in the revitalisation of education as part of the church's mission in Southern Africa. Invoking memory – remembering our past, both its strengths and its weaknesses – can be a tool of education, an instrument of critical analysis which helps us plan effectively for the future. In that spirit, I want to call to mind the origins of our educational tradition, which in the case of the Anglican Church goes back to the beginnings of the church in these parts, when my predecessor, the first bishop of Cape Town, established both Diocesan College, a sister school for girls, and Zonnebloem College in the outbuildings of Bishopscourt 160 years ago.
This outreach continued with the mushrooming of schools across the sub-continent under colonial rule, serving the sons and daughters of both black and white. Although interrupted by the devastation of Bantu education, the mission was continued by visionaries such as Deane Yates outside South Africa, and picked up again within South Africa by people such as Deane and the founders of the Vuleka initiative, Susan Germond and Joy Chilvers.
And now the Province has again formally identified education as one of its top mission priorities. We say in our Provincial Vision Statement that “Anglicans ACT”. When we say “Anglicans ACT,” the A in ACT is for being Anchored in the love of Christ. When we say “Anglicans ACT,” the C is for being Committed to God's Vision. And when we say “Anglicans ACT,” the T is for being Transformed – by the Holy Spirit.
Let's try this together: boys, teachers, parents, clergy, everyone, please say after me:
That's right: Say after me again! Anglicans ACT!
Now let's say each part together:
A is for being Anchored /
in the love of Christ! /
C is for being Committed /
to God's Vision!
And T is for being Transformed /
by the Holy Spirit.
Under that Vision Statement, we have eight missional priorities, one of which is “protection and nurture of the young.” But that on its own is just an aspirational statement. What the Anglican Board of Education, under the leadership of Bishop Peter and Roger Cameron, does is to unpack it by focussing on three very specific objectives:
To support existing church schools,
To galvanize parish and community involvement in schools, including schools run by governments, and
To establish high-quality, accessible Christian schools.
All three objectives are important, and we should be careful not to neglect the second objective: to help improve and revitalise state schools. On that note, as we reflect and act on educational needs in South Africa and our neighbouring countries, please join me in praying for children who are forced to use long-drop pit latrines, remembering particularly the young lad in Limpopo who fell into one and died recently.
However, it is the achievement of the third objective that we are here to celebrate today. As Bishop Peter has stated, our ideal is to establish, and I quote, “strong, high quality, accessible Christian Schools with teachers who have a sense of vocation, who create a disciplined learning environment and enable boys and girls to reach their dreams...” This initiative is not confined to South Africa; we want to carry it into every diocese in southern Africa, demonstrating that we are truly ACSA, the Anglican Church of Southern, not just South, Africa. As a first step, at the end of the month, we will be opening the Archbishop Maboe High School in Lesotho, and the Diocese of Swaziland has a large plot and will be starting the process of building a school there.
For my part, my dream and my desire is that each young person may grow into a contributing member of society, an effective citizen of the world, who can help provide solutions to life's challenges at every level, personally, professionally and in his or her community. If we are to do this, we need to go beyond replicating the kind of education our children are receiving at too many government schools, where teachers don't turn up for work on time and who often turn out matriculants whose skills do not equip them to meet the needs of the economy. I will not comment on the negative influence of SADTU in those schools, because the last time I did I got into trouble!
For this task ahead, I know that Vuleka is well equipped. We have a vision for what we want to achieve with this missional priority. We are analysing the needs and identifying the gaps that need to be filled. But we still need two more qualities if we are to achieve our goal. The first is courage. Courage, because our project is an ambitious one, which we will not realise without thinking big and aiming high. The second quality is more down-to-earth: having summoned up the courage to think big, we need to sell our project, to find and deploy the marketing skills that will enable us to succeed. The task is not impossible: here at Vuleka, by establishing a small trust, the Archbishop Thabo Makgoba Development Trusts, a few years ago, we were able to raise some funds to help towards a library and a classroom. Today we are presenting a further cheque of R30,000 towards the school and encourage you and your friends to give to this amazing project. No amount is too small or too huge.
So we need resources, but we have faith, we have a vision, and we have the sure knowledge that the resurrected Christ gives us, that in Him all things are possible. I know that God is smiling on our efforts and on our celebrations. Our warm congratulations to you all on this momentous day; to Melanie, to all who work at Vuleka, to Bishop Peter and Roger, to Bishop Steve and all who support this project. May God bless it and every boy who passes through this school.
To finish by invoking the sentiments of your school prayer: may this be a place in which all feel secure and are able to learn, in which true friendships are formed and people know themselves, in which people learn to apply their minds and where values are set and lived out.
To God be the glory! Amen.