20 September 2016 – The Grade 11 group visited Donkerpoort, Saint Andrew’s outdoor education facility, last week for a leadership camp ahead of the election of new prefects at the end of the third term.
Headmaster Chris Thomas, who paid a visit to Donkerpoort with Honorary Life President of the Old Andrean Association, Colin Hickling, to address the boys, said the value of having Donkerpoort to host camps has become more apparent with each group that has passed through it.
Golf legend Gary Player interacts with Dillon de Jager during the grade 11 Leadership Camp
“What we’re trying to do with Donkerpoort is teach children certain skills, so the programme starts with grade threes. They develop skills from grade three all the way up to grade 11. We’re not planning to send grade 12s on a camp, although the prefects, if we can find time, go on a prefect’s camp.
Lessons to be learned from camps
“The idea with all the camps is to teach children individual skills, but also to teach them to work in groups, and to do that away from home. In other words, they have to rely on their own resources rather than what they have got used to.”
The development of the facility is six to seven years ahead of schedule, the Headmaster shared, thanks to the generosity of parents and old boys. “The fact that we have sleeping accommodation for both staff and boys, that we’ve got washing facilities for both, is tremendous. We certainly hadn’t planned to have that already.”
Investing in outdoor education
Jason Silcock, a former Saint Andrew’s boy (class of 2001), who is now a teacher in the primary school, is responsible for the various programmes running at Donkerpoort. Saints has also been investing in his education as an outdoor educator and will be further developing other teachers, Thomas explained: “We have sent him to Somerset College, who are one of the leaders in these types of programmes. He spent a week there. We will keep on looking at courses that we can send him and other staff on.
“It would be about how to handle things. If we could do abseiling for example, if we could do team obstacle courses and high ropes courses. We would train certain staff to run those things as we go. It’s a very exciting project.”
The grade 11 group faced a challenging obstacle course
Further aspects that the school will aim to develop at Donkerpoort, which is a mere 8.5 km from the Gariep Dam, are subjects like biology and history, especially with the area’s ties to the Anglo-Boer War.
More than personal and leadership development
The Headmaster commented: “It doesn’t just become a leadership development or personal development camp, but it becomes an educational thing as well.”
Kayaking was trialled with success during the recent grade nine camp, and with the Gariep Dam being so close it is something that will also be expanded upon.
The grade 11 leadership camp was not significantly different from any of the other camps. Thomas said, because its goals were similar to those of other camps.
“I don’t think it differs a great deal in that it still has the same aim of individual challenges and group challenges. We are sending the prefects away at the beginning of next term for a couple of days to a leadership training camp. If there are any ideas we can pick up there, we will certainly use them.”