Fifty-five eager young WBHS men, accompanied by 4 teachers, headed off on the annual Academic Tour to Johannesburg and the Cradle of Humankind recently. This Tour has become a highly anticipated event in the Academic calendar of the School as a wide range of activities and sites are enjoyed by these fortunate tourists.
No sooner had we arrived in Johannesburg than we entered the doors of the Ditsong Military Museum. The boys were in awe of the weaponry on display. Weapons of the two world wars dominated the display. Aircraft, all in immaculate condition, took our collective breath away: the first jet propelled aircraft (the Me 262); a Spitfire suspended from the ceiling, a Sopwith Camel of the First World War; a Dakota bomber in which the boys could sit; the tanks all neatly lined up; the numerous artillery pieces. And then there was more: weapons, clothing and information of other past wars fought in the late 19th Century. This museum is world-class and is well worth a visit.
Day Two started with Africa’s largest township, Soweto. For many of the boys this was a once in a lifetime experience. The undisputed highlight was the generosity shown by our boys as they handed out blankets, warm clothing and sweets to the residents of the informal settlement, giving us the most important lesson learnt on this Tour. We also visited the scene of the Soweto Uprising.
The Apartheid Museum is another world-class facility which displays so much about the history of our country, from the mineral discoveries of the late 1800s to the TRC of Mandela’s Presidency. This visit hopefully offered the boys a clearer understanding of our past, and a sense of empathy for the issues with which our nation is currently grappling.
And then the moment that most of the boys were waiting for: the opportunity to test themselves on the TERRIFYING rides at Gold Reef City, of which the majority took part! After years of declining, I succumbed to riding that Anaconda, the roller coaster that twists and turns at breathtaking speed. Safe to sayI will not be doing the Anaconda next year!
Saturday offered a slightly more sedate day. The De Wildt Cheetah Sanctuary provided us with an opportunity to learn about this endangered species, as well as to see these beautiful animals up close and at the same time watch wild dogs being fed.
Hartebeespoort Cableway was next on the Itinerary. The views from the top were certainly spectacular and well worth the fear of heights displayed by some of the boys.
Our final stop for the day was Pretoria, and specifically the Union Buildings. The Office of the President certainly has played its role in South Africa’s history- the 1956 Women’s March and the inauguration of Nelson Mandela – being two important occasions. Interestingly, the age old issue of land ownership was evident : a group of Khoisan tribesmen had taken up residence in the Union Building gardens to protest against the seizure of their land. Their placards told us that they were the first residents of the land today called South Africa.
Sunday started with a visit to the interactive museum at the Maropeng Visitors’ Centre. Here the focus is on the birth of mankind and the problems that the world faces today. A tour through the Sterkfontein Caves provided interesting insight into how the fossils of these early humans (called Hominids) were preserved – as well as being a means to test our levels of claustrophobia and agility as we had to maneuver through rather tight tunnels! One of the boys even asked why he had to wear a helmet – before he promptly bumped his head against a cave wall!
The Maropeng Visitors’ Centre has recently added a new outdoor display called The Long March to Freedom – approximately 100 bronze statues of iconic leaders from the 1600s to the present are lined up, facing the “present”. Each statue is accompanied by a short description of that leader’s role in the struggle for freedom in South Africa. The detail in each statue is worth a mention.
Four days after visiting some of the most interesting places in South Africa, we returned home, richer for the experience.
ANDREW FAURE-FIELD: TOUR ORGANISER
This was one of the best and most interesting tours ever. It was a chance to learn more about our beautiful country and the contribution it made and continues to make in the world. We saw how Freedom was won for us and how many of our people still suffer from unemployment and hunger. We had fun and we learned through information and experience. I can’t wait to return. JOANNE O’CONNOR
The tour was a new adventure for me and my first tour as a staff member. Having been on our school’s history tour many years ago, I was delighted to find a brand new itinerary bursting with both academic and historical significance, not to mention some well-deserved fun thrown in. It was truly great to see our boys immerse themselves into the attractions just as much as their teachers [although perhaps slightly more at Gold Reef City]. Seeing these young men enjoying our countries rich diversity and cultural heritage helped to solidify my decision to become a teacher. I am truly grateful for having had this opportunity to broaden my knowledge, as well as getting to know these young men better. I cannot express how beneficial this tour is for our boys, allowing them to experience and see things that otherwise they might never have enjoyed. I hope to be invited again in the future as there is so much more to see. PETER LICHKUS
To take aspects of life for granted is something we all do. To see perspective change in pupils has been one of the more momentous memories of my life. Entitlement is such an easy trap to fall into and I believe these students are less likely to be bound by it again. But one particular aspect of life that we all take for granted sometimes, assisted by negative news and foreign and domestic perception, is our country. It is a privilege to live in such a diverse land with a wealth of history that will enrich many generations to come. I thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the chance to see the students grow not just scholastically, but patriotically. I would certainly relish the chance to be a part of this excursion again. SHAUN PADOA
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time on this tour, it has taught me things that I would never have learnt or even seen in the constraints of the standard classroom. For example, I gained a new appreciation for not only all that I have but for all the opportunities that are constantly presented to me. I was also given new and interesting experiences such as the exploration into the wondrous Sterkfontein Caves. Over-all the academic Tour was an extraordinary experience which allowed me to expand my knowledge and mature as a person. SHIVAAR RAMSUDH GR 9 STUDENT
This tour was not only intellectually stimulating but it really did bring out the fun in all us, the pupils and the teachers alike. With learning activities like the visit to the war museum and the world class apartheid museum and the exciting activities like Gold Reef city and the Cableway in Harties all of these first-time experiences now ticked off my bucket list! My favorite part was the fact that we were able to create bonds with people in our grades through shared experiences. And with all the exploration of South African history, I was also exposed to life lessons that will forever shape me for the better. We got to play a small part in Soweto to put a smile on somebody’s face, and this will forever cherish and will do all in my will to continue practicing what this experience has taught me through and through! THANDO MZIMELA GRADE 9 STUDENT