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2000 Peterhouse Boys Speech Day

Mr Chairman, Mr Driver, Governor, Governors, ladies and gentlemen,

Last Speech day, I looked forward to the new millennium, wondering how we would fare. I cannot imagine that anyone at that stage could have predicted the horrors that we have witnessed in Zimbabwe in the first few months of this year; it has been difficult for everyone, and many people have been forced to question the roles played by the government and other influential people. As a school we feel that it is important to teach our pupils the difference between right and wrong, and to stand up for one's principles.

At the same time we felt that it was important to keep out of politics, so that our school could continue as normal and provide a safe haven for some of the children here whose home lives have been disturbed greatly during the year.

Guest of honour
Our guest of honour this morning, Mr Jonty Driver, will probably understand these problems more than most, because as Chairman of NUSAS in South Africa, he came into direct conflict with the apartheid regime at that time. I first met him when he became the Master of Wellington College, when I was a housemaster there, and it is a great pleasure to welcome him and his wife here today. When I stood next to him earlier I felt rather vertically challenged and realized what Mr Burgess must feel like most of the time. I also know that there is one person here today who will not forget playing rugby at school on the same side as Jonty. He was scrum half and lost his front teeth when they were kicked out by Jonty who was number 8.

New developments at Peterhouse
I know that many people, both black and white, are worried about their future in this country, and by the end of this year, from our three schools we will have lost about 40 pupils. Of course the economic situation in the country is also very worrying, and I realize that, every time we put up the school fees, we will lose some pupils. Unfortunately it is not only pupils that we are losing, but we have also lost some good staff, although I feel that we have been luckier than many schools in this respect. The number of independent schools in the country has grown enormously in the 20 years since independence, but I can see that over the next couple of years this number will decline. A combination of people leaving the country, escalating school fees and an increasing difficulty in getting hold of good quality staff, will mean that only the better schools will survive. Many schools are already looking at their future and having to make difficult decisions about reducing their staff because of falling numbers.

We felt that at Peterhouse it was important to put forward a note of optimism about our future, and therefore I was delighted when the governors gave the go-ahead for a new science block at Peterhouse, the new library and computer centre at the girls school, and a covered sporting area at Springvale House. It is important that we send out positive signs about the country and about Peterhouse in particular. Unfortunately some of the boys who have left us have been boys who came from neighbouring countries, whose parents felt that it was not safe to send their children back to school. It is easy to sell Peterhouse at present, but not very easy to sell Zimbabwe.

We like others have experienced problems with power cuts and fuel shortages. We now have some generators which means that we can light certain areas, which will at least allow our examination candidates to continue working. My family and I went to England last holidays and on one occasion we took our daughter Charlotte to see her first movie. She was very excited and as we sat in our seats the lights went out for the start of the film. Suddenly she said in a loud voice "Oh, no, Daddy, not another power cut."
As I review the last year, I cannot forget the comment that headmasters are like teabags: you can never test their strength until you have put them into hot water - there has been plenty of hot water around this year!
On Speech Day it is important for the school to be seen at its best. Unfortunately at present certain areas of the school look unsightly because of our new building and we are also putting in an irrigation system in our Great Court which is not yet complete. I would like however to thank Sarah Mellon, the mother of our head boy, who has arranged the flowers in Chapel today as she has for the past four years.

Exam results
The year started with some excellent A level results. The pass rate of 92.9% being the best that we have ever achieved; particularly pleasing was the fact that 38% got either A or B grades, and 62% got either A, B or C grades. It was unfortunate that these results were delayed, as ZIMSEC were not able to find the money to pay Cambridge for these results, and this certainly had an effect on some of our pupils finding places at South African universities. The whole question of localization of O and A levels has been uppermost in our thoughts during this year, as understandably parents are very concerned that the qualifications that their children get will be internationally accepted. We have made the decision to enter our pupils for IGCSE in 2001, instead of O level, although a few people are being entered this year as a trial run.

We have looked into the possibility of doing the International Baccalaureate as our leaving exam and recently we have met with the Cambridge representative for southern Africa to look at the new AS and A level syllabuses.
The IB is an excellent exam but I do not feel that it is right for us, and it will be also be extremely expensive. The new A levels will offer us an opportunity to keep more options open during the lower VIth year by studying either 4 or 5 subjects and then cutting down to 3 in the last year. Schools in England have just started these new syllabuses and it will be interesting to hear next year what their thoughts are. Almost certainly we will go along this route. Our O level results last year were not as good as the year before, but we still obtained a 94% pass rate.

Mathematical Olympiad and falconry
Our mathematicians have done us proud recently. This time last year 10 of our pupils qualified for the final round of the Mathematical Olympiad, and this year 7 have. It is very rare for any school to get more than five through to this stage. Two of our boys were chosen to represent Zimbabwe at an international conference in Washington during July, and Peterhouse was also featured in a programme about falconry which appeared on South African television last week. We are lucky in having one of the top two falconers in the country on our staff in Mr Querl and this is a very popular club, although this year their activities have been somewhat curtailed, as they have not been able to go and fly their birds on the local farms.

It is important that our pupils have time at school to look ahead to their futures and I would like to thank Miss Mansfield for all the hard work that she does in the careers room helping them with their university choices and also organizing speakers to come down and talk about different careers.

It was a great sadness at the end of the Lent term when I had to ask some senior boys in Malvern to leave the school. It is important that every boy knows the rules and regulations under which they live. At this stage in the country's history where in many areas, law and order have broken down, it is vital, that people should realize that they cannot take the law into their own hands.
Last week I was privileged to attend the CHISZ conference at Troutbeck where the theme of the conference was "Leadership is Action, not Position". I feel that this year we have had some excellent prefects ably led by Daniel Mellon, who have taken that comment to heart. They have worked hard to solve any problems that we have had in the school, and have realized that respect is earned by the way that they behave and conduct themselves, rather than because of the position that they hold. It was Albert Schweitzer who said that there are three ways to teach a child. The first way is by example, the second way is by example and the third way is by example, and I feel that we are lucky in having senior boys and members of staff who lead by example.
At a time when Zimbabwe is treated as a pariah by the rest of the world, it is important to remember that we still have an educational system in this country which is the envy of many other parts of the world. We are still a disciplined society, and it is important that people know where the barriers are. This in itself creates stability; our school is based on Christian principles, and we should not forget the words of our founding Rector who said "If a duty to God is not recognized, there is no secure basis for any sense of duty to man."

The CHISZ conference is a very valuable time when one has the opportunity of comparing notes with other heads, both in the primary and the secondary sector. One new boy at a prep school had said to his headmaster, "Sir, are there any differences between a headmaster and God?" The headmaster replied "Young man, there are several important differences, but for the next 7 years they need not concern you."

We were delighted when George Punshon joined us as Chaplain at the beginning of March. As I mentioned in my speech last year, we had survived well without a chaplain because so many of our staff were prepared to stand in and help with services, but I think it is a relief to all of us to have a "professional" here once again, and we are very grateful for what he has done in the short time that he has been here.

Second term
The second term was very disrupted. Many boys did not arrive back at school because of the problems in the country, and many left the country again for the period over the election. We increased our security at the school; the school was not in danger at any stage but we obviously felt that we must have a plan should the situation change. Despite the political problems and shortages of fuel, we managed to keep our extra mural programme going. Our rugby XV lost to Prince Edward, but beat all the other Zimbabwe schools with the exception of Falcon, with whom we had a very exciting drawn game. Five of our boys were asked to represent Zimbabwe at Craven Week. The soccer team had another good season losing only 3 out of their 13 games. The hockey team once again had an excellent season, and won most of their games, and five boys were selected to represent Zimbabwe at U20 and one at U17 level.

It was a great shame when Mr Paul M Davies told me that he wished to return to England. He has proved to be an outstanding coach of hockey, as our results over the last few years have shown; he has been Head of Biology and latterly Head of Science, and has started teaching this term in Rochester. Another person who has had a dramatic effect upon the standard of sport at Peterhouse is John Bell. He has coached rowing at both the boys and the girls school, and our teams have performed creditably in the South African championships, and have also become a force to be reckoned with in Zimbabwe . He has been in charge of computing here but has also played a major part with his wife Sue in the musical arena, taking part in the school orchestra and singing in various groups. They have also both been involved in social activities in Commonroom where John was Chairman. We wish them all the best in their future in the northeast of England where John has just taken up a post as Director of Rowing at Durham School.

Our cricket team has had an outstanding season winning 9 and losing 1 of their 13 games, the highlight being our win against Falcon by 6 wickets when we were chasing 304. The volleyball team won all 13 games during the first term, but have not gone quite so well this term. Our basketball team have had excellent results. Last weekend they played in the Milo top schools tournament in Mutare, won all their group matches, beat Falcon in the semi final but unfortunately lost in the final by one point. I have not gone into great detail about the sport but have given you details inside your programme. You will see that it has been an outstanding year for us.

The standard of our music at Peterhouse has improved greatly over the last three or four years and much of the credit for this must go to Andrew Bentley, our Director of Music. This year the Chapel choir obtained Honours at the Eistedffod. It is a great shame that Andrew has handed in his notice; he and his wife Judy are returning to England in the new year. Also leaving are Susan van Heerden who has taught English here for two years, and is the resident Tinokura house tutor, and Rob Burrett who has been Head of Geography, a house tutor in Founders, and has been very involved in Gosho Park. We are also sad to say goodbye to Peter and Jackie Bayes. They first arrived at the school at the beginning of 1993 with Peter managing the maintenance department, and Jackie being housekeeper. At the end of 1995, they left to go and work at St Johns, but it was not long before they decided to return, and Peter was appointed Assistant Bursar Works when he returned here in 1998. They are now retiring and moving to Mutare where they have a house. To all these people, we thank them very much for everything they have done while they have been at Peterhouse and wish them all the best in the future.

Cultural activities
I have mentioned the Chapel choir, but there are many other choirs and orchestras which are run by our enthusiastic music department. I would particularly like to mention our jazz band, who have played on numerous occasions with great skill and I know how much hard work Roger Hudson has put into this particular musical area. Our drama has been of the highest standard over the last few years, but it was unfortunate this year that the school play had to be cancelled. We are however looking forward to a pantomime at the end of this term. We should not however forget other areas of cultural life at school such as Toastmasters, Dining Club, Public Speaking competitions, debating etc. Much hard work is done by our members of staff in supporting these clubs.

Mrs Bawden
I must mention my wife at this stage. Being married to a headmaster cannot be much fun and the role of a headmaster's wife should not be underrated. Headmastering can be a lonely job and when there are problems within the school it is important that one has the support at home. I would like to thank her for that support. My wife is very good at bringing me down to earth. While on holiday we were driving down a narrow country lane in Norfolk and were stuck behind a slow moving tractor who refused to move over, despite me hooting my horn to let him know that I was there. I was getting fairly irate when my wife said to me "It is just possible that he is not aware that you are the Rector of Peterhouse."

Marketing campaign
Two years ago I decided that we should start to market the school. This was not because of any shortage of applicants for places at the school, but I had watched schools in England which, during a period of high inflation, had been full at the beginning of the 1980s and by the end of the 1980s were closing down. I felt that it was necessary to get ahead of the game and over the past couple of years a team of staff, present parents and old boys have been visiting various parts of the country talking about Peterhouse, and this will be an ongoing process. The effects of this are already beginning to pay off and our last two Open Days have been very well supported and we have a strong entry of boys into Peterhouse next year. The events of the last few months have emphasized the importance of this marketing.

Petrean Society
I am kept informed about the old pupils of the school by the Petrean secretary, Mike Hammond and also by Oliver Beaumont in Australia who runs the Petrean website, and I must say how grateful I am to both of those for all the hard work that they put in.
We heard of the death in a car accident, of Richard Tsimba who was at Peterhouse during the 80s and played rugby for Zimbabwe in the World Cups of 1987 and 1991. Two of our other old boys, the Harnden brothers, represented Zimbabwe at the Olympics and we also heard news of Richard Hudson, a world renowned set and costume designer who was about to make his debut at La Scala Milan. Richard won a Tony award, the theatrical equivalent of an Oscar, for his Broadway set design of The Lion King.

Sir Harry Oppenheimer and Ronnie Watson
I was sad to hear of the death during last holidays of two people who had served Peterhouse well in the past. The first was Harry Oppenheimer who has already been mentioned by the Chairman. We also heard of the death of Ronnie Watson who was a member of our executive committee for many years. Schools such as Peterhouse keep going because of the enormous amount of voluntary hard work that is put in by such people. Archie Sadza has had to resign from our Executive Committee as he has moved to England, and this will also be the last occasion that we will see Bishop Jonathan here in his official capacity, as he retires from being Bishop of Harare at the end of this month. We hope however that he will not lose contact with our schools.

A headmaster was talking to a member of the audience after his rather long speech. "How did you like my speech?" he asked. "Oh very refreshing indeed," replied the guest. "Did you really?" asked the delighted headmaster. "Indeed I felt like a new person when I woke up."

Thank you to all of those who have stayed awake and have listened to me.


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