In my fifth year at SAHETI, I am able to walk around the campus and reflect on the many changes and achievements that have taken place, both in and out of the classroom. Without the commitment and dedication of a team of teachers and auxiliary staff, little change would be possible. SAHETI is in the privileged position to have people who are passionate about their work and have a heart for our school. This drives them towards continued improvement and reflection about best practice. Our teachers are certainly modelling the creativity and energy expected of our students. It is not surprising that yet again, SAHETI has been awarded the University of the Witwatersrand Excellence Award as one of their top feeder schools in 2018.
Together with my senior management team, much has been achieved over a relatively short period of time. I am thankful to all those who are so supportive in helping SAHETI move from strength to strength. With great potential for even further growth, I have started visualizing where we will be five years from now. One aspect however, that has not changed, and must never change, is the sense of family and community which is grounded in our Greek identity. It is from this foundation, and the rich heritage based on ethical values, that we have been able to grow in ever-increasing strength.
From 2018, SAHETI can proudly declare itself a real sporting school in certain disciplines: we have a number of provincial players in water polo and have produced some fabulous results, even against competitive monastic schools. Our results in basketball are also way above what our student numbers should dictate. Netball, tennis and soccer are also core strengths in our sport offering. We came first overall in the open water swimming league, so this also features as a sport of excellence. Our participation at Midmar is one of the largest in terms of the number of students participating from a particular school. We are planning an U12 and U13 girls’ water polo and boys’ soccer tour to Greece in 2019, to profile these sports, but we are also working hard to improve the quality of our coaches across all our sporting codes. I thank Mr Philip Venter and Mrs Pam Lerm for their leadership in lifting the standard of sport at SAHETI. We wish Mr Philip Venter everything of the best in his new post, and we welcome Mr Werner Janse Van Rensburg, who joins us from the University of Johannesburg as the new HOD of High School sport for 2019.
True to a holistic education, our cultural programme provides the opportunity for our students to find their niche and excel. For example, in the High School there are well over 15 clubs and societies, with opportunities ranging from science clubs, to 3D animation clubs, to playing the Marimba. One of the many noteworthy achievements was our High School performance at FEDA that resulted in a silver medal followed by an invitation to the Grahamstown Festival, where we received very positive reviews in the associated media. Our Greek celebrations this year have also been marked by a significant improvement in music, dancing and singing. By way of example, during our commemoration of the Pontian Genocide in the Avli, the Grade 4 choir moved us emotionally with their passionate and strong repertoire. We have benefitted from our new teachers, Mr Yannis Kontaxis (Greek dancing), Mrs Theano Fygkiori (Greek music) and from the visit by Mr Thodoros Georgopoulos (Bouzouki). Their input has enhanced the work done by our existing team of dedicated teachers, who have already laid the foundation of quality in these areas. The appointment of Mrs Erika Lion-Cachet as Director: Co-Curricular has ensured a synergy between all the offerings of the school. Both pupils and staff have found her approach and organisation essential in streamlining busy schedules.
We have continued with our outdoor programmes, tours, excursions, community service and have attained our international status as an Eco-School. For Oxi Day we said no to hunger and packed thousands of meals for the poor. In addition, amongst a number of other activities, our students have participated in a clothing drive, engaged with children from an orphanage and have also visited the Greek Old Age Home. Our teachers and the school as a whole are leading by way of example, and I thank Mrs Sophia Zachariou and Kyria Tonia Papazoglou respectively, for their energy and drive behind the fund raising campaign for the victims of fire in Greece and for the Saturday morning Greek Support Plan. From a grounds perspective, this year we have produced and used over 50 tons of our own compost and we are growing our own plants in the hothouse from cuttings. In addition, we are recycling most of our waste, and are educating our students by encouraging project work in our environmental park. I am confident that we are producing considerate, proactive and environmentally aware students who will influence and shape our communities for the better in the years ahead.
We have a number of staff advancing their studies through formal qualifications, workshops, conferences and short courses. In terms of professional development, I would like to congratulate our Director of Academics, Daniela Pitt, who has led by example and been awarded her doctorate from the University of the Witwatersrand.
Teacher development in ICT is ongoing and we continue to invest in upgrades in our computer infrastructure. All of our classes have Smartboards, where applicable, and all staff have received training. The focus this year has been the implementation of Microsoft “Teams”. In 2019 we will upgrade our fibre to a 1G line. That said, we are monitoring and educating our students around fair and acceptable use, and we also have the necessary firewalls and software to restrict access where required.
We have had a few significant additions to the school in 2018. Our new part-time Learning Language Support specialist in the High School, Mrs Danski, has assisted pupils who find reading and language challenging. The benefits of this support have already been evident. Other valuable additions this year have included: the Market Research Project; talks on diversity and inclusion; the development of an intentional values curriculum; the Dojo Communication App in the Playschool; tuck shop upgrade; new swimming pool wall; traffic flow and parking upgrades; a Bouzouki concert; the Karri App (cashless system); an orchestra; sports clubs (pilot); online booking of parent meetings; online admissions as well as library and classroom upgrades.
The Matric Class of 2018 and I share common ground in that I started at SAHETI when they began their High School journey in 2014. In this time, we have certainly grown together in many ways. They have been at the cutting edge of some change - the guinea pigs, as some may say. They have been the first group to participate in the likes of the Wilderness School, the SAM project and the President’s Awards Programme, amongst others. I would like to thank them for embracing change wholeheartedly, for their camaraderie and for their joy of life. I am very pleased about the calibre of our students that step out into the competitive world - people of good character that are articulate, confident, and who have the ability to engage critically and collaboratively in a rapidly changing environment. May God bless them as they move into the next phase of their lives.
To my entire team: the Marketing Department; the Finance Department; academic staff; support staff; the Directors; Mrs Sophia Zachariou; Mrs Terri Ohannessian; Mr Warren Manson and Fr Petros - thank you for making SAHETI such a wonderful school to work in. To the Chairman of the Board, Dr Andreas Stephanou - thank you to you and your team who have sacrificed of your time voluntarily and so generously. I would also like to thank Mrs Maretha Senekal and Mrs Stella Nestoridis as they go into retirement after serving SAHETI faithfully for so many years. Their lives have been woven into the fabric of SAHETI. To the other teachers who are leaving us for varied reasons, I wish you all of the best for the years ahead. Finally, thank you to Kyria Tonia and the Greek Department who help keep our Hellenic culture alive, who contextualize our national celebrations and bring us a little closer to eating, dancing, singing and thinking the Greek way – Bravo!