Today (19th March) we were very privileged to welcome Mark Boobbyer, The Director of Tiger Kloof, a rural school in South Africa, to speak at our Mark Reading end of term assembly, along with his wife Cathy Boobbyer, who grew up in Cape Town during the apartheid years. They gave an inspirational talk with a powerful message.
Tiger Kloof aims to provide a quality education for local, disadvantaged children. From 1904-55, Tiger Kloof was one of the country's greatest schools, educating men and women who would go on to lead countries and head up the struggle for freedom against oppression. Old ‘Tigers’ have included two presidents of Botswana and the leader of the ANC Women in Exile. The school was closed down during the apartheid government and reopened in 1995; Mark joined in July 2012 and has been working hard to rebuild the school’s reputation for excellence. Mark previously worked for 18 years at Wellington College and won the Mail and Guardian 'Drivers of Change' Education Award in 2013 for his work and commitment to Tiger Kloof.
Mark spoke about the history of Tiger Kloof - highlighting the dates of the school: 1904-1962 and 1995-2015. The school, which was founded by a missionary society, decided to close after the apartheid government passed legislation making it illegal to teach academic subjects to black children. Cathy spoke of her time in a Catholic Girls' School in Cape Town during the apartheid years, and how challenging it was just to have a friend who was not white, with segregated carriages in trains and swimming areas on beaches reserved for whites only.
Fortunately, the school buildings were not destroyed and the school re-opened in 1995 after the end of apartheid. Tiger Kloof educates children from the local community; many of these disadvantaged children live in shacks, have faced violence, drug or alcohol abuse, and rape and murder is not uncommon in the townships. Tiger Kloof provides them with a safe environment in 1200 hectares of farmland, it provides adventure training programmes (including mountain biking and team-leadership programmes). The school also runs an International Programme, hosting visits from children from the US, UK, Tasmania and Australia, so that the children at Tiger Kloof can mix with children from all around the world.
Cathy also spoke about 'The Hem', the school's soup kitchen, where they provide food three afternoons a week for 100-150 children, along with encouraging the children at the school to get involved helping in the soup kitchen.
Mark stressed that it is not always smooth sailing; some of the children do not settle at the school and find it difficult to accept the help and love offered to them. For others, it can provide them with a chance to transform their lives. He urged the girls to help the disadvantaged, not as a one-off, but as something which is central to the way they live their lives in the future.