“A home must be built on solid foundations if it is to last. The same principle applies to men, otherwise he too will sink back into the soft ground and become swallowed up by the world of illusion.”
– Sai Baba
The foundations of our great School are manifested in our School motto, our vision statement, our School values and in our code of conduct. They are the product of a history of raising boys into manhood. In my talks to prospective parents and boys, I often refer to our School motto: “Producing gentlemen of character”. I emphasise the words “gentlemen” and “character” as key to our focus on developing boys. We associate a mental picture of how a gentleman appears and behaves. A gentleman is defined as “a man who is polite and well educated, who has excellent manners and always behaves well”. At Durban High School we have a determined focus on creating these gentlemen. However, the most powerful word remains “character”. Derived from the Greek word “charakter” meaning engraving tool, it is the sum of the values and virtues that are engraved into our boys through the example of their family and the example of our School community. Character is defined as: “referring to the sum of the characteristics possessed by a person referring specially to moral qualities, ethical standards, principles and the like”.
Recently there was a post on our social media platforms from a member of public stating the following: “This morning I was leaving the Engen garage in Stephen Dlamini Road and saw one of your learners put down everything he was carrying, open his gym bag and give a destitute man one of his sandwiches. There were no other learners around; a completely selfless act. This learner is what your School is all about. You can be exceptionally proud of this young man.”
This young man, despite his humility, has been recognised at our recent assembly. The reaction to this small act has been extremely well received and commented on. Maybe because we recognise that it talks to the character of the young man. Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones. As Jason Brown Junior put it: “Character is what we do when we think no one is looking”.
However, perhaps it is sad that an act that should be so commonplace in our society is reflected as an outstanding moment to be lauded for the demonstrated values and character of the young man. We need to tell far more stories like this. As parents and as a community, we need to prioritise character development. As Frederick Douglass put it: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men”.
As parents, you have the most important role to play in the development of this character. I share the following story: “On a snowy day, a father took his eight-year-old son for a walk. Wearied by the high drifts, the boy began to fall behind his father. After a few minutes the father looked back and found that his boy was behind him, imitating his every move and walking in the tracks the father had made in the snow. “When I saw this,” the man told one of his friends afterwards, “I said to myself, it behoves me to walk very straight when this fellow is already following in my tracks”.”
Don’t worry that your children never listen to you, worry that they are always watching you. Evidence, research and experience all tell us that a father and family play the most critical primary role in the character development of an adolescent boy. Proverbs 20:7 – “A righteous man who walks in his integrity – how blessed are his sons after him.” In the book “Raising a Modern Day Knight” it espouses that every son needs vision, and direction and meaningful answers to questions such as:
- What is a man?
- What are a man’s responsibilities?
- What does a man believe?
- How does a man behave?
- What should a man try to achieve?
In helping him answer these questions you allow him to go into the future with:
- A vision for manhood;
- A personal Code of Conduct, and;
- A transcendent cause.
Through this they will become good men and good fathers.
The role of teachers is equally as important. And even more so in this day and age. “Teaching is a very noble profession that shapes the character, calibre and future of an individual.” Abdul Kalam
It is not the curriculum that makes our profession noble, but the power that we have to influence positively the lives of our boys. In actively living and teaching our School motto, vision statement, School values and code of conduct and most importantly through the example we set, we are able to shape the character of our boys. Some of our boys come from homes that are destructive and the onus is on us to use our relational opportunities to mould our Boys. Durban High School is a member of the International Boys School Coalition (IBSC). The IBSC recently released a comprehensive research book done by an Australian University. This research was directed at boys only education over a number of years and around the world. This research is titled “For Whom the Boy Toils : The Primacy of Relationship in Boys’ Learning”. The message was both clear and powerful. Boys experience their teachers before they experience the lessons they teach. The best teachers go beyond the curriculum. As cultural forces influencing children continue to undermine values and ethics, so parents rely evermore on our roles to reinforce values and character development! I commend you on your noble cause.
To Our Boys:
Never in history have human virtues been so battered. The at times immoral character of modern society continues to sacrifice values at the altar of expediency. Mahatma Gandhi’s seven dangers of human virtue are clanging loudly today:
- Wealth without work
- Pleasure without conscience
- Knowledge without character
- Business without ethics
- Science without humanity
- Religion without sacrifice
- Politics without principle
Is it not alarming that this is so prevalent in our lives right now?
However, through your rites of passage and life through Durban High School you received far more than a simple education. Our motto, vision, values and code of conduct have become your motto, your vision, your values and your code of conduct. School is renowned for producing leaders in all facets of life in the past. Now more than ever the world needs leaders and especially ethical leaders, into the future.
You now need to go on to become good fathers and good men as you set the example for the next generation of Durban High School Boys. In time it could be your own sons that “follow your footprints in the snow”. May they be footprints we can all be proud of.
“May each and every one of them ever remember that as he is, so is his school.” – D C Thompson, 9th Head Master
A D Pinheiro
15th Head Master