By Mr Norton
South Africa 2016
The 2016 LHS/St Hugh’s tour to South Africa followed a similar pattern to the previous four. The boys played good rugby, saw the sights whether they be natural, sporting, cultural or historical. They had fun at the theme parks and the beach. Among the usual attractions, they got to snorkel with sharks, albeit little ones, although snorkelling over the tanks where the big boys and girls are kept proved a little disconcerting for some.
As a school we have raised over £50 000 over the years we’ve been touring SA. Most of that money has been donated to the Sethani charity which works with the community in KwaNgcolosi, a semi-rural tribal area of KwaZulu Natal, aiming to relieve poverty and to empower the community through the provision of facilities and training. We have donated buildings and transport in the past but as Mrs Wells, the director of the charity in SA informed me “It’s great having physical items such as computers, cars and fridges, but to be able to use these, we also need to be able to pay the electricity bill, employ staff to run training courses and to insure and put fuel in the vehicles. Although those aren’t as tangible for donors, they are one of the greatest challenges to our sustainability and are really one of our greatest needs at the moment.” This tour has been able to donate £8000 to this worthy cause.
I’ve been able to get to know one or two of the schools we play over the years. One in particular I felt deserved our support. Gardenia Primary School is a state school in the Cape Flats area of Cape Town. It is almost 100% state supported unlike some of the other schools we play, which have considerable parental support and yet they always have a big assembly where our boys are guests of honour, they provide each of our boys with medals after the game and hospitality that they can probably ill afford. I wait to hear from Felicity Petersen, their Head, as to what will be purchased with the £8000 LHS have raised. Gardenia was also the school where many of the boys gave football/rugby shirts and boots, footballs and other items that were enthusiastically received by the Gardenia students. We also left over 60kg of school uniform and sportswear that had been donated by LHS and which again will be put to good use.
Personally, one of the highlights of this tour was when our boys had lunch with the Langa Rugby club boys. We have played them 4 times and after the game we have always had lunch at the imposing “Sheilas”. This time we invited the Langa boys and their coaches to a lunch which not only involves some of the tastiest food we have on tour but also a marimba band and a lecture on the deficiencies of European time keeping from the proprietor. As you can imagine the backgrounds and lifestyles of our boys and those from Langa are very different. HIV is still a real issue, 35% unemployment, housing conditions and basic education are still an everyday concern for many in Langa and yet over lunch you had a group of 11/12/13 year olds talking and laughing about whatever boys that age talk and laugh about. They were equally bad at playing the instruments and singing with the band but there was real interaction between the boys for that brief period and I think our boys began to get a better understanding of how big the world is and how lucky they are. The tour of the township after lunch not only allows the LHS boys to give gifts to the younger members of the township but also allows the LHS boys to develop an eye watering empathy with their Langa peers as to what it takes for a young Xhosa male to become a man. Mr and Mrs Shah also organized the donation of a large amount of cricket equipment to the Gary Kirsten foundation which we were able to deliver in Langa.
I’m hopeful that we will be able to repay Felixton School for their generosity. They lent us their school bus to allow us to get to Durban after our own bus refused to leave the playing field after the game. It was a flashback for me, to my time when I worked in Zambia when things like this were not uncommon. What would probably cause disconcertion and panic in this country (35 boys and various adults with luggage, 100 miles from their destination and no immediate means of getting them there) was dealt with in a pragmatic and generous way. The offer of using Felixton’s school bus and driver was made and gratefully accepted and we only missed 5 mins of the Super rugby match. Felixton is a school that is in a farming community and which is really struggling due to the lack of rains that has affected large parts of southern Africa to the extent they are having to use their swimming pool water for functions other than swimming. I’m hopeful that we will be able to purchase a bowling machine or something that will be of use to them (possibly a few tankers of water) with monies raised by the generous efforts of those at LHS.
The tour is over 2 weeks long, which for many parents will the longest time they will have been separated from their children. They are on a different continent a long way from home. I don’t pretend it’s cheap either, (I know as my two daughters and wife came with us 2 years ago). I do however see the benefit and enjoyment the tour gives to the boys. The widening of horizons and experiences will hopefully remain with them.
Here’s to the 6th tour. May it be as enjoyable and as constructive as the previous 5.
A highlight of the school year has to be Grandparents' Afternoon - thank you to all our visitors and to our amazing Year 5 boys for being such good entertainers and tour guides! https://t.co/XtMb8lOXxn