St John’s College was founded in 1898, only twelve years after the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand. Today it is counted as one of South Africa’s pre-eminent schools, with a reputation for excellence that extends well beyond the borders of South Africa.
St John’s was founded by the Anglican Church, and so Anglican traditions and values underpin everything we do. Our School Prayer calls upon God to make St John’s a home of religious discipline, which sends forth young men and women ‘rightly trained in body, mind and character’.
One cannot but be struck by the beauty of this school, with its lovely quadrangles and the magnificence of the Sir Herbert Baker and Francis Fleming façade overlooking the playing fields and St Patrick’s road to the north. The Anglican tradition coupled with the beauty of the surroundings inspire pupils and teachers alike. But the school is so much more than the buildings.
St John’s is unique in the South African school context in that it is a boys’ school, book-ended by girls: we are joined by girls in the earliest phase of education at The Bridge Nursery School, and again at the final stage in Sixth Form. The St John’s Sixth Form is the oldest post-matric Cambridge Centre in the country. We are proud of the excellent results it achieves in the Cambridge International exams. The academic edge provided by teaching and learning in an internationally accredited system not only gives our teachers and pupils an opportunity to benchmark against the best in the world; it also has a significant effect on teaching methods and practice throughout the High School.
What strikes me as I return to St John’s College as the 15th Headmaster after a 30-year absence, is the range of activities on offer and the commitment to excellence in the classroom, culturally and on the sports field. At St John’s it is admirable to achieve academically, and boys who are brilliant musicians and debaters are fêted and celebrated as much as the outstanding sportsmen. We aim to produce young men and women who are inquiring, enthusiastic, tolerant and resilient. Young individuals who know the difference between right and wrong and who have the courage to stand up for that in which they believe.
St John’s is proud of its heritage, culture and achievements, but we cannot become a ‘ghetto of privilege’. It is important that we play a key role in our immediate community, and that we offer support to those who are less fortunate than us. The St John’s College Academy provides an afternoon enrichment programme to boys from our immediate surrounds of Yeoville, Berea and Hillbrow, in the key subject areas of English, Maths and Physical Science. Our Centenary Bursary Programme offers bursaries to bright boys who are unable to afford school fees, and we cultivate future generations of teachers via the Realema Teacher Intern Programme.
Our physical situation on the edge of Johannesburg’s inner city emphasises our obligation to impact positively on the environment. Exciting initiatives are afoot to ‘retake’ The Wilds by establishing outdoor education programmes and community initiatives in this beautiful, but neglected, part of Johannesburg.
St John’s is internationally connected through its membership of the International Boys’ Schools Coalition (IBSC) and the prestigious G20 group of schools.
It is an honour to be the Headmaster of this great school. I hope that whether you are a Johannian, a teacher, a parent or an old boy, you are as inspired by this place as I am, and that together as partners we will continue to produce young men and women of character who will go out and make a difference in the world.