Life lessons for Grade Nines on Donkerpoort Camp

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Life lessons for Grade Nines on Donkerpoort Camp

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30 August 2016 – The grade nine class attended a camp at Donkerpoort last week, with teacher Jason Silcock (matric class of 2001) serving as the Camping Programme Coordinator for the three-day visit.

Donkerpoort, he said, was a big asset to Saint Andrew’s. “Outdoor education is so important. It is the way to go in future. Every private school in the country has some sort of camping programme. All the schools that lead from the front have their own sites,” he explained.

Grade 9 camp 1

The grade nines had to build their own shelters for their camp at Donkerpoort


One of the highlights of the camp (and this was in the opinion of the boys) was the “solo”. On one of the evenings the boys were left apart in the veld, about a kilometre away from their nearest classmates. They had to sleep out the entire night and were also set some tasks to perform while alone.

“Father Deon and I sat and spoke to the boys for a long time, because as soon as they came out of the veld a few of them came to me and asked why they slept out there alone,” Jason said.

“Kids don’t know how to be alone nowadays. The ‘now’ generation actually needs to learn how to be alone and what to do in certain situations. I gave them activities to do, so they didn’t go and park off in the veld and do nothing.”


Among their tasks was to write a letter to the Headmaster about their goals and ambitions, where they want to go in life, and where they want Saint Andrew’s to go.  “I have the idea, perhaps, that the letter should be included in their report, or put in a box and stored away until they get into matric,” Jason added. The boys also wrote letters to their parents, or siblings, or guardians.

The nights of the solos proved to be among the darkest Donkerpoort has seen in recent times, which revealed the Milky Way in all its majesty to the boys, many of whom hadn’t previously seen it so clearly.

The solo, Jason said, will be part of the rite of passage camp for the grade nines in the future.

Paddling (sort of)

The boys also participated in paddling, with groups of up to 18 at a time taking to the water…well, what there was of it! Laughing, Jason said: “It was a bit rough. The boys had to get out and pick the boats up [at one stage].”

There was also a visit to a Chinese fish breeding farm where the groups learnt about dissection, anatomy and aquaponics.

Development of Donkerpoort

Donkerpoort has developed nicely in recent times, especially with the work done on the staff house by Alida and Kassie van Kasterop. Before it was restored and improved, with necessary infrastructure also being built, it had been a difficult task to get the staff on board, Jason shared.

“That has been rough because last year we had staff members sleeping under a pepper tree on a mattress. Father Lombard and I slept under a broken roof and every time we went there, there was no guaranteed accommodation. Now we have the accommodation up and running, it is perfect. We have more staff on board, and through that we can do a lot more.”

Next addition

The next addition that needs to be tackled is the construction of low-ropes’ and high-ropes’ courses, he continued: “That was planned last year already. The people to build it are in place. They came from Cape Town, have seen it, and drawn up a plan.

“The plan I put forward to them was a standing tower, where we can do a Jacob’s Ladder on the one side and then all the high-ropes activities, abseiling, rock climbing and a scramble wall too.

“That needs to be built soon because we need things that are sustainable every year, so we can guarantee in our letters to the kids what we are going to be doing.”

Life lessons

Donkerpoort teaches the children important life lessons and that these lessons get through to the boys was made clear in the task of building shelters.

Jason related: “We told the boys to build their shelters to fit their entire group under cover. The one group did a good job. The other group didn’t really bother. They eventually slept under the stars and froze.

“That was a big lesson learnt. They were so miserable. The very next night, the boys got cold, but they built the most amazing shelters, including ‘keep out’ signs. They said they slept very comfortably. They didn’t make the same mistake again.”

SaintsAdmin August 30, 2016
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