Principal’s Message – Assembly 15 January 2016

There is no doubt that the past few months have been a tumultuous time in South Africa. The economic woes of the country, with its low growth rate and the free fall of the rand against major currencies, together with the crippling drought which has major implications for food prices and water supply, has presented serious challenges for South Africa.

Of concern have also been the numerous incidents of racial abuse which have been inflamed by social media and the media in general. As always I ask the question - how does this affect Bishops, and more particularly each one of us sitting in this Chapel today? On a practical level it is important that we exercise responsible behaviour in making sure that we are not extravagant when it comes to expenditure and use of natural resources such as water and electricity. I am pleased that already staff and boys have responded in a positive way to effect behaviour changes to ensure that we monitor use of our natural resources and also to create awareness in the school in general.

Of more concern to me though is how we respond to the issue of racism and abuse of minority groups. We need to be reminded that in our Bishops Mission Statement we are called to: ‘respect, nurture and value each person’ and to ‘embrace and celebrate diversity in the communities of our school and South Africa’.

In preparation for the new year I have asked myself critically whether we are true to this Mission. Certain incidents over the past year have suggested that all is not well.

As a member of the majority culture as a white male at Bishops I am personally committed to making sure that I am sensitive to minority groups at our school. These minority groups include race, religion, gender, sexual persuasion and disability. I acknowledge that the issues are complex and complicated but I want to make a plea to all of us to be sensitive to our differences and to try to better accept and understand each other. Indeed we need to learn to celebrate difference because our lives are enriched by diversity. Bishops is a better place because of our diversity and we will be better people the more we learn to embrace it.

In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than the opposite’. In a similar vein Mother Theresa said “Spread love wherever you go. Let no one ever leave you without being happier.”

At Bishops we promote a culture of mutual and appropriate respect amongst all boys and staff. It is important that we understand that this includes respecting people who are different to us for whatever reason. In the end, when in doubt, we must always apply the Golden Rule, ‘Treat others in the same way as you would like to be treated.’