Wednesday 26 July
At 6.00am on Wednesday 26 July a team of 56 boys and 4 Staff headed off to Gauteng for this year’s edition of the Academic Tour.
Making good time along a very quiet N3 we reached our first venue by 2.00pm: the Ditsong Military Museum in Rosebank, Johannesburg. The boys were in complete awe at the weapons on display: the rifles and regalia of the South African War (1899-1902); the aircraft, weapons and trench system of the Great War (1914-1918); the aircraft, artillery, rifles and tanks of the Second World War (1939-1945) – as well as numerous other displays. This highlight of the Tour was – unfortunately- interrupted by load shedding (a common theme throughout our visit to Gauteng).
Our evening was spent at a nearby backpackers, an eye-opener for many of the boys!
Thursday 27 July
After a hearty breakfast we picked up our Tour guide for our visit to Soweto. Along the way we visited Freedom Square where the Freedom Charter (1955) was adopted, we traced the tracks of the students involved in the 1976 Soweto Uprising and we had the honour and privilege to visit an informal settlement while also presenting blankets and clothing to some of the residents and sweets to the super-eager infants. Seeing how other South Africans were living in complete squalor was a shock for many of our boys. Hopefully this will be etched in their memories for many years to come.
Our next stop was the Apartheid Museum. The displays will hopefully instill in the boys an understanding of where we come from as a nation and hopefully guide us in our perceptions as South Africans today.
By 2 o’clock the boys were ready for some entertainment…the high-flying rides of Gold Reef City. As this was a school day very little queuing was required. Some of these hair- raising rides were ridden many times over. Indeed there would be a number of ‘sore back’ complaints over the next couple of days (mostly from the Staff!)
Joburg peak hour traffic is not much fun …the situation is worsened by load shedding, generating gridlock. Eventually we reached our home for the next three nights: Maropeng.
Friday 28 July
Another early start for another busy day. After breakfast we headed back to Johannesburg. Our first stop would be a visit to the Constitutional Court. This is a new addition to the Academic Tour and is well worth while. Getting to visit the Chamber where the most important decisions are made by the Justices and to hear from our Guide how this apex Court operates certainly was surreal. Long may the independence of the Courts be maintained.
After lunch we visited the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the seat of executive power in South Africa and the scene of some very significant historical events in our country, including the 1956 Women’s March and the inauguration of Nelson Mandela (1994). An interesting aside was to listen to a Khoi San elder who had been protesting for FIVE years on the grounds of the Union Buildings because the Government has failed to recognise the land and language rights of his people.
The Voortrekker Monument is a very prominent landmark that dominates the Pretoria skyline. On approach it generates a dominant yet impressive image. Equally impressive are the displays inside which capture the history of the Afrikaner. For those who suffer from acrophobia a climb of the 170 steps to the top of the Monument is not such a good idea!
Saturday 29 July
After two busy days, today would be far more relaxing. The Rhino and Lion Park is a new addition to the Academic Tour. It proved to be good choice. Driving through the park, with the winter grass very short, the boys were able to see a wide range of animals not found in the game parks of KZN: rhino, gemsbok, sable and springbok.
We had a number of walking tours as well. In the vivarium we saw a 2 metre black mamba, a rattle snake and a copperhead (from the U.S.A), numerous cobra and python. In the enclosures we saw white tiger, white lion, a clouded leopard, a jaguar, a desert fox, a panther and ‘normal’ lion and leopard.
A rush back home allowed us to cheer on the Springboks who were playing their final game at home before the Rugby World Cup. After dinner we congregated around the boma which allowed us to reflect on the past few days.
Sunday 30 July
After breakfast and having packed we begin the long trip home. Hopefully the boys have had their eyes opened and learned things that will remain with them for many years to come.
Finally, l would like to say a ‘big thank you’ to Mr Peter Lichkus for all his work in making this Tour both possible and successful.
The Academic Tour is renowned for its exciting and interesting learning experiences. Many boys see it as a highlight of the year, looking forward to it with great anticipation. While visiting the various tour points, the boys were constantly complimented on their exceptional behaviour and represented Westville Boys’ High School in a manner that was noteworthy. The boys were constantly excited and eager to be engaging and learning during the tour.
From the perspective of the new chaperones on the Academic Tour, the
knowledge gained and shown to the students is invaluable and allows the students to see a perspective of South Africa that they have not seen before. We understand why this tour is a highlight to the boys and we thank the school for this amazing opportunity.
– Miss Chloe Chantler,Mr Zane Van Pletzen and Mr Peter Lichkus
The 2023 Academic Tour was five days for the yearbook: a highlight of our high school academic career. The tour opened our eyes to aspects of our country’s rich history that we wouldn’t otherwise have experienced. Our tour guides helped us walk the uneven path that our country took to democratic freedom. The tour let us connect with our peers in new ways, singing songs through the night, ride thrilling rides and having a truly amazing journey.
– Grade 10: Daniel Dent and Liam Kruger.
The academic tour is an interesting array of attractions which allowed us to learn while having fun in an engaging and captivating manner. The museums and tours offered a unique perspective on topics we knew little about. The tour was also an amazing opportunity to have fun with friends and socialise as you learn together, especially during our time at Gold Reef City in which we got to confront our fears of height and speed. Overall the tour was highly enjoyable and a great opportunity for a student to learn something, gather insight into the past of our country, and have fun.
– Grade 9: Nikhil Gungaparsad (Gunga) and Nimai Lalla