Our Anglican heritage compels us to make St John’s a home of belonging for every staff member, every student, and every family that composes the St John’s community.
Over the last few years, we’ve been working hard across our stakeholder groups – staff, students, parents, and Old Johannians – to inform a strong direction for transformation for St John’s College. Last year, we began to craft a roadmap that would guide this journey.
That roadmap – our Leap of Faith – was presented to Council in December of last year and approved. Leap of Faith 2030 sets the direction of our transformation journey for the next two decades, during which we will celebrate and mark the 125th anniversary of St John’s College.
This year we’ve been able to work in every one of our schools, from the Bridge, Pre-Prep, Prep, College and Sixth Form, in embedding the precepts of this Leap of Faith and making sure our students understand the concepts of social justice, equity, and creating a sense of belonging.
My colleague Lester Lalla is fond of quoting Hannah Arendt, who once said, "Education is the point at which we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it.”
This strategy, this Leap of Faith, is a manifestation of our love for this world and that education is greater than the acquisition of knowledge or skills. It is about preparing children for a complex world, a world that demands equity and equality and growth. It is a world in dire need of good stewardship of resources. It’s about equipping our children and community with strategies and knowledge, and skills that they can influence the world in which they live and make it a better place.
The Leap of Faith strategy describes three pillars: Growth (speaking to cultures of learning), Stewardship (speaking to cultures of service), and Equity (speaking to cultures of restoration). These will inform the work we are going to be doing comprehensively, with all key stakeholders, in the journey ahead.
Growth: Cultures of learning
Learning is central to the human experience, it is through learning that we speak, imagine and build. This pillar speaks to the core of education: teaching and learning.
The growth pillar is a commitment by St John’s College that those platforms allow for healthy dialogue and engagement, for spaces to be created where teaching and learning can happen especially in relation to issues of diversity – a growth in human consciousness. Learning helps us build bridges.
We run staff-development activities throughout the term, looking at matters of transformation and diversity, and then we run what we call parent conversations once a term, where we invite the parent body to come and grapple with issues of social justice. For our students, we have subjects called Social and Civic Justice for Christ at the Prep, and at the College, Perspectives.
Our job, in partnership with the parents, is to model the behaviours we want in the citizens of tomorrow. We are every day, modelling our values and encouraging those under our care to think about what they are doing and saying.
What has it meant for us to grow into the most unequal society in the world? What has being South African meant for who we have become? What does that mean for each adult? What does that mean for the ways in which we parent? What does that mean for the ways in which we teach? And what are the ways and the shifts required in teaching and in parenting and in loving our young boys so that we can help them transcend some of the darkness under which we had to grow up?
Stewardship: Cultures of service
Community engagement is an important part of us living not just our Christian ethos but our social responsibility and our civic responsibility – of realising that being in the most unequal society in the world means we do not just get to sit and enjoy our beautiful estates and privileges and resources; we must use them for the betterment of the society around us.
It is crucial that community engagement as an act of stewardship becomes a real part of every Johannian’s life – that they go out into the world ready to serve a South Africa and a world desperately in need of loving hands, loving eyes and of loving ears.
Part of the work that we commit to in our second pillar is community engagement, committing to cultures of service that will span the stakeholders that comprise our wider communities.
As an African, Anglican school, St John's locates itself in the continent and the church. Shaping citizens to serve and community engagement is not defined as patronising forms of charity; they are based on an understanding and commitment to shared humanity, shaping citizens who understand that in going out into the world, we are not saving anyone. We are practising shared humanity that will work with our society, work with partner schools, and in doing so, create robust relationships that help us learn and teach and help our students navigate society in all its complexities.
“To whom much is given, much is required”. If you walk around our campus, you see that we have been blessed with 123 years of heritage, buildings, and facilities that have enriched many generations. But it is time to broaden that, take what we have and uplift those around us, take the excellence of teaching and learning, the excellence of education and resources, and enrich the lives of others.
The work that we have to do is about taking care of the resources that have been given to us so that we may use them for the benefit of society, use them for the common good, and use them to build goodness in the world. Our Christian mission informs this, but it is also informed by sound 21st century educational principles and by South African constitutionalism. Every aspect of what it means to be at St John’s college says to us: Shape good citizens who will do good in the world.
Equity: Cultures of restoration
A rising tide lifts all boats. An emphasis on equity is an emphasis on improving every aspect of the school as we acquire new heights of excellence and understanding, thereby improving the lives of all those around us.
The question of equity must not be confused with equality or sameness. At the heart of building cultures of equity is the question of redress. This, in simple terms, is an acknowledgement that we have not treated people equally or justly in the past and, therefore, will take steps to redress that because not all within the community enjoy the social currencies of privilege. Under this pillar is the review and accountable practices in terms of our admissions and staff recruitment policies. It reviews our sports offerings and investigates previously unexplored or not offered sports codes.
Building cultures of restoration speaks to our ability to build institutional muscle, enhance the experience of St John’s college and extend it to as many people as we can. How do we ensure that employment equity is realised in a real way, in ways that continue to infuse and grow and contribute to the quality education being offered at St John’s College? How do we ensure that restorative justice, as a concept, is something that we work with amongst students and staff? And how do we ensure that our students speak to the idea that we want to share our blessings widely and try to offer a St John’s education to as many as we can reach? Cultures of restoration tell us about how we practice that life, how we practice that strategy and how we share it amongst all people to the best of our ability, to the benefit of society as a whole.
Leap of Faith is a commitment, a challenge, a testimony and a prayer. It is what we seek to do every day, taking a leap of faith into the future, knowing full well that we are committed to building a society of goodness and peace, infused and informed and rooted in our ethos, in our Anglicanism, and in sound and quality 21st-century education, and South African constitutionalism.
St John’s College was always a Venture of Faith; it has gone Forward in Faith through the ages. Now, we take a Leap of Faith into the future!