Written by Felicity Makalima, OWLAG 2020 SRC President
Good morning. Dumelang. Sanibonani. Goeie More. Molweni. Avuxeni. Aah. Namaste. As-Salaam Alaikum. At this point, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the presence of every individual in this room from the respected members of staff, to the student body from the grade 9s to the seniors of the school, the Class of 2020, to the management of the Academy, to the Parents Forum, to the proud parents and guardians of the grade 8s and all honourable guests that have blessed us with their presence. I see you. I acknowledge you. I honour you. I have deliberately chosen to not mention the Grade 8s, the Class of 2024 because I would be doing them an injustice by not giving them a special mention. They are the reason why we are gathered here (on a Saturday morning) to not only formally welcome them to the OWLAG community but to also celebrate with their families the start of a beautiful journey. So, Class of 2024, we salute you, we honour you and we celebrate you.
As cliched as this may sound, I sat for hours, staring at a blank document while trying to figure out what I could possibly say to the young ones and their families today. I thought of being motivational and having a speech like Nelson Mandela’s “I have fought against white domination” speech or like “I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King but I ended up with something like, “Life is like an ant walking in the rain”. I have no idea what that means but you have to admit that it does sound quite motivational and inspiring. Well, that is how it sounded in my head at the time. I then moved on to thinking about making a statement that will make you, as the audience nod your heads in agreement but I could not seem to find a statement that I felt would truly have that effect. I read poems about success, quotes about circumstances, watched videos about how to overcome obstacles in life, listened to music to try get motivation on what to say and I even slept in the hopes that my dreams would reveal to me what to say but from all of this, I got nothing. I ended up deciding that I should maybe just look for the motivation from within and all I could think of was flowers. Flowers in a garden.
I know it may not make sense to you as to why I would want to talk about flowers but just let me paint you a word picture of this so that you can understand the connection between OWLAG and flowers. I think of OWLAG as a garden and us, the students as the flowers. I may have dropped out of Life Sciences in grade 9 but I do know that there are basic things that every flower needs to grow which are: water, nutrients, air,light, temperature, space, and time to ensure that the seed can become a flower. I want to illustrate how each of these exist within the OWLAG context and how they will enable you to develop into the many different types of flowers that you are.
Water is an important chemical substance that enables and sustains life for all living things. Water cannot be described using many words but we all know of its importance. The water for an OWLAG flower is Mom O’s immeasurable gift to us. This gift has given each and everyone of us a life beyond what our circumstances would have permitted and what we could have ever imagined for ourselves. Mom O has gifted us with education and that, is the most powerful thing that anyone can equip African girls with and Mom O does this without expecting anything in return but for us to be the beautiful flowers that she knows we can be. So, grade 8s, we live in a country where not all have access to clean, safe water at all times but you have been blessed enough to have an oasis, use it wisely, use it sparingly but most of all, use it to help yourselves grow little seedlings.
The nutrients will come in the form of the knowledge, resilience, perseverance, strength and friendship that you will gain throughout your journey here at OWLAG. These nutrients will assist you a lot in dealing with the obstacles that you will face at OWLAG. I will not lie, it is not easy. The journey will have severely strong winds, heavy rain and even hail at times but the nutrients will ensure that you have the strength to withstand any obstacle that comes your way during the 5 years that you will be here.You will lose some leaves and maybe a patel or two but in the midst of it all remember that,”Tough times never last but tough people do.” The wind will become gentle again and the storm will be over and you will be able to see the sunshine again.
The seedlings could get all the water, air and nutrients that they need but without light, they will not grow. The light, little seedlings, is your family. Your family is not only the light that will help you grow but also the light that will help you to see. Parents and guardians, your daughter needs you. She needs your love and support. Listen to her woes even if all she is complaining about is having to iron her uniform. The continued, constant communication with her will do a lot for her emotionally and mentally. On some days, all she will need is to hear your voice, do not deprive her of this. You are detrimental to the growth of your daughter, your flower. Do not stop being a source of light, strength, encouragement and unconditional love so that your daughter can blossom.
Back to you, grade 8s, as much as you are a part of a bigger garden, you need to give yourself time and space to grow. Be patient with yourself. Remember that daisies and sunflowers do not grow at the same pace and they are not the same size. Focus on your own growth. You are your own flower. Do not let the progress of other flowers make you feel like yours is insignificant or even non-existent. And if all feels hopeless, turn to the Gardener, the creator of the garden, the one that knows all the flowers individually and cares for each flower. The gardener will provide the air and temperature that are still needed for you to grow and blossom.
Grade 8s, Class of 2024, you will be okay, little seedlings. You shall grow and become the beautiful flower that you are meant to be.