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So much for hype – slow and steady wins the race



In a world where people seem to publish the ins and outs of their entire lives on social media, the question has been raised as to whether in this day and age it’s still appropriate to have the ending of one’s schooling resting on one single exam with a subject portfolio. We seem to know what people ate for dinner, where they are on holiday, that they are stuck in traffic, that they are feeling unwell, that they got a raise, promotion, or got fired, and whether they have a particular song stuck in their head.

So, too, with matric, the hype around this year seems to be on everyone’s minds. Though it’s a year like any other, with the same demands and expectations, it’s a year that opens doors and therefore has the energy of a transitional phase where doors seem to be slowly closing on their childhood and doors creeping open into the adult world of responsibility, driving, and legal capacity.

The hype is necessary as there’s a place for excellence and the opportunities that emerge when results are exceptional. Today, students need to compete for places at university, particularly if they have dreams of studying abroad. However, this doesn’t detract from other students who are reaching their potential and fulfilling their dreams in possible non-academic spheres.

The key is consistency. Slow and steady wins the race. Living a balanced lifestyle, sticking to deadlines, and making the most of all opportunities offered leads to a fulfilling year that’s not solely academically focused. If work is done consistently and one’s lifestyle is one of health and balance, then it seems that the hype will fall away in favour of realistic dreams and attainable outcomes.

The choice in approach would be whether to throw oneself solely into academic pursuits or to have a well-rounded end-of-school year where there is involvement in academics, sport, and cultural activities while maintaining a social life and religious and spiritual balance.

If one sacrifices all of these things to focus on academics, the dangers are that one will emerge from the matric year as one dimensional, possibly with an outstanding set of marks, but at what cost? Would it take years after school to regain one’s footing socially, physically, and spiritually.

In a world where mental health issues have emerged particularly in the adolescent age group in a population of those already searching for identity, the threat of anxiety about the year ahead or depression about feeling a failure is very real.

We want our pupils to be healthy on every level during the year, and if that involves sacrificing 30 minutes of algebraic equations to go to gym for a natural endorphin high, this isn’t just okay, but encouraged. The cost of mental health isn’t the price we should be paying for a National Senior Certificate qualification. We understand the need to feel a sense of self-worth, self-esteem, and belonging in order to be a functional human being.

In encouraging wellness, the hype around matric also gives the school an opportunity to motivate the younger grades for academic excellence and a balanced approach to school where the matrics are leaders not only in their age and educational standing but also as role models in teams, clubs, and committees.

We advocate the reaching of potential. Potential is nothing without the hard work, commitment, and dedication needed to fulfil all that you are destined for.

So, too, while we may see Ronaldo’s new car on social media or Taylor Swift’s exotic holiday destination, the hype around matric will show those who shine with 10 distinctions as well as those who get a university exemption with one distinction. All are as precious.

If role models are sports stars or rock stars, so too should it be our pupils who, through everyday stress, anxiety, busy schedules, and the general craziness of life, reach their potential and shoot the lights out.

Excellence doesn’t mean perfection. Excellence is the confident pursuit of reaching goals and being able to celebrate individual achievements. And those achievements are the opening of doors and the entry into the world with a bright future as proud South Africans and proud Jews.

  • Lorraine Srage is the principal of King David High School Linksfield.

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