Going backwards to move forwards
When Ella Maughan stepped out of Herzlia High School’s gates at the end of matric in 2021, she had achieved something that few had ever done before. She returned to Cape Town without her family after emigrating to England just so that she could complete matric in the warm Herzlia environment that meant so much to her.
“My decision to make my way back to Herzlia was definitely not a light hearted one,” she says. “Since the moment we decided to immigrate, my family and I didn’t think we would be going backwards – although I would call my journey a huge step forward. After a couple of months in the United Kingdom (UK), I decided that I missed Herzlia too much to miss out on my last year there. My parents completely agreed, and we decided it was best that I finish my matric year in Herzlia, where I belonged.
“There was a lot to plan, but it was all manageable and worth it!” she says. “I stayed with my mom’s friend, and was escorted around by my mom’s sister and my friends, for which I cannot thank them enough. Without their help, the move wouldn’t have been possible.”
Her experience shows the possibilities of remote learning in a post-pandemic world.
Before actually getting back to Cape Town, she started matric at Herzlia, but online in the UK. “At the start of the year, all the matrics were online, so I stayed in the UK for term one, and then came to finish the last three terms in Cape Town,” she says. “Being away from my family was extremely hard, but the support I was given by friends and teachers was unconditional and made me feel right at home.
“Herzlia made joining online a smooth and enjoyable experience,” she says. “My teachers never failed to make me feel included and be a part of the classroom environment.
“The thought of coming back to Herzlia, while comforting, was also a bit scary, as I had missed out on almost a year of school life with my friends. The workload was also scary, as you need Grade 11 work for Grade 12! But with the support of my teachers, I managed to get back on top of things and be at the same pace as my class in no time. Herzlia’s warm, welcoming environment helped me to feel like I had never left.
“The nurturing atmosphere that has surrounded me for 12 years of schooling has helped shape me into who I am today,” Maughan says. Even when faced with difficult decisions, she felt supported. “For example, I chose economics, biology, and accounting as my three electives. Halfway through Grade 10, I decided I wasn’t enjoying accounting, and the teachers couldn’t have been more helpful and understanding. They helped me to find the right subject. I changed to business studies, and it was a perfect fit.”
She also enjoyed participating in everything school had to offer. “I took part in some clubs and always appreciated how many options there were. I have a passion for helping and spending time with children, and Herzlia helped me to embrace that. I was able to express my interest in outings after school.”
She’s still in Cape Town for now, “but I’m heading back to the UK in just a few days”, she told the SA Jewish Report on 13 January. “I plan to go to Israel in the near future, and from there on, it’s undecided!”
To future matrics, her advice is not to go into matric with a negative mindset. “Yes, the work is hard, and there’s a lot of it, but you will get through it. The teachers are always there to help and accommodate you with whatever is needed. Don’t let fear of the workload be daunting, there’s still time to live your life in matric!”
Matric helped her to “discover sides to myself that I didn’t know. Matric has that effect on you. It makes you want to persevere and work as hard as you can, as in the end, it’s worth it. You can learn so much about yourself – your capabilities and strengths.”
Maughan’s hopes and dreams for the future are “to be genuinely happy. I can without doubt say that because of my experience at Herzlia – the values it taught me, and the friends I made – I definitely will be. I want to thank Herzlia for incredible years that I’ll never forget. I couldn’t have had a better schooling experience, and I’m so grateful for the life lessons I have been taught, and how much Herzlia made me learn about myself.”