On 15 August, 48 students and 4 staff members from Westville Boys’ High School embarked on this year’s Academic Tour. The aim of the tour was to provide the boys with a memorable life experience while incorporating themes that would be covered in a number of different school subjects. Hopefully, at the same time, some fun could also be had!
On the road by 7.30am, the group reached their overnight stop in Johannesburg by mid-afternoon, giving all a chance to refresh before trawling a local mall to find dinner. The first evening’s appointment was at the Wits Planetarium. As the boys sat in the auditorium “under the stars,” the knowledgeable orator provided an interesting narration of our “local” constellations, “nearby” planets and stars as well as an account of some of the latest technology used by scientists in space. The boys left awestruck.
The following morning, after a hearty breakfast, the group headed off to an area most of them had never visited before: the vibrant, congested town called Soweto. The guide led the boys to some impressive landmarks such as the towering FNB Stadium, the spot where Hector Petersen was shot and Vilakazi Street which is the only street in the world to have housed 2 Nobel Peace Prize winners (Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu). Thereafter, the group visited the Apartheid Museum which provided an excellent, yet thought-provoking account of South Africa’s recent past. No doubt, the boys will now have a clearer understanding of our heritage that will serve them well as they move into the future.
The highlight for many was the afternoon spent at Gold Reef City, although rain threatened to derail the opportunity to enjoy the stomach- churning rides on offer. Fortunately, the rain cleared and many (exaggerated!) stories about “no fear” on the rides could be heard on the bus as the tour bus headed towards Maropeng. Maropeng became home for three nights. Very isolated on the veld, this education centre provided comfortable accommodation and wholesome meals.
On Sunday, the group headed off to the Cheetah Sanctuary. The close proximity to the cheetah, wild dog, serval and caracal, together with the interesting presentation made this a memorable experience. On to Pretoria – The Union Buildings and the newly built Nelson Mandela Statue were far more impressive than the photographs. The Voortrekker Monument, a massive mausoleum, was equally impressive- and somewhat scary when looking down from the balcony (after climbing 169 steps!) at The Cenotaph some 40 metres below. Monday was a slightly more relaxed day. The Maropeng Visitors’ Centre, through its interactive facilities, provided a trip back through time to the development of the planet as we know it today – as well as an in-depth study of the Origins of Mankind. The Centre also challenged the boys on issues such as the destruction of the planet by humans, and what could be done to save it…
On Monday afternoon, the group headed off to the world famous Sterkfontein Caves, the place where the world’s earliest examples of pre-historic man were found. A walk through the depths of the cave transported everyone back in time. Certainly this is no place for the claustrophobic! On Tuesday it was a time to head back home, full of knowledge and insight. Once again, the Academic Tour proved to be a most unforgettable experience for all, together with memories that will last a lifetime. Thank you to Mr Faure-Field, Mr Nyar, Mr Collier and Mr Lichkus.