A few days ago South Africa laid to rest a giant of the struggle against apartheid. Ahmed Kathrada (21 Aug 1929 – 28 Mar 2017) embodied the spirit of activism and determination which brought an unjust political system to its knees. While his funeral was distinctly political, it was also a moment to reflect on our conscience, not only as a nation, but also on a personal level.
The purpose of this blog is not political so I do not want to venture there. Instead, I want to focus on the courage and determination of a man who was willing to be imprisoned for a cause he believed in, to the very core of his soul. When I consider the life of Uncle Kathy, as he was affectionately known, I am challenged to reflect on both my own courage and commitment as a leader in my school. I am forced to wonder in what areas of my life I need to increase my quotient of these key character traits. Would I be willing to give up freedoms I currently take for granted in order to stand firm for a cause I believe in deeply? In what areas of my life is it easier to “go with the flow” rather than swim upstream in the face of popular opinion in order to make decisions which, will wildly unpopular, will grow our school and benefit our children? How determined am I to commit to a course of action or cause even when it causes me great discomfort?
The life and death of Ahmed Kathrada forces me to consider my role as educator and parent. Like water, human beings tend to choose the path of least resistance and, as parents and educators, we are tempted to make this choice for our children too.
Allowing children to work together in cooperative learning activities, asking them to commit to schedules for their extra-curricular activities, giving them opportunity to debate hard issues in class and providing a safe space for them to be themselves, holding children accountable for their personal organization, all contribute to developing young people who are learning the value of commitment and courage.
Our country needs more people whose courage and commitment to do what is right and to stand up for their values and beliefs, places them in a position of moral leadership. I hope that in some small way, our school will play its part in developing a generation who will be held in the same esteem as those who in previous years have held aloft the torch of courage, commitment, determination and moral leadership which others have followed.