Have you ever taken the time to imagine how different your life would be today were it not for Maritzburg College?
Granted, there are good and bad experiences on every College journey (and some of us may have more of one than the other) but surely both of these contribute, in equal measure, to developing the unique individual you are on your way to becoming?
A year ago, almost to the day, an encounter with a young College boy put me in a position to reflect on my time at College – the good and bad – and remember some of the boys I knew who left College quietly and without most of us even knowing the circumstances that surrounded their departure. I sat wondering where they were now, how different their lives were and where my road might have lead me had I been in their shoes…
Until that point in time I had never really dwelled much on the reality that there are boys whose College journeys come to an end for a variety of reasons and that their lives invariably change as a result thereof.
Regular internal updates appear in my inbox with the subject header: “Pupil Movement Memo” and are summaries of journeys ending and journeys beginning. Updates on boys leaving College, arriving at College, dayboy’s becoming boarders and boarders now joining the ranks of the dayboy’s – the latter remains completely perplexing and, in itself, the source of many more sleepless nights!
To be honest – I used to briefly skim through these lists without paying them too much attention. Until that encounter.
What prompted this reflection was an interaction with a College boy whose College journey was ending – before it even started.
It began with a letter, then a personal visit (albeit unannounced) and a plea for assistance.
Michael* was in the middle of a protracted domestic dispute between his mother and father. They were separated and mom was now left to look after Michael and his younger brother, without any financial support at all. She had been a stay-at-home mom for the last 14 years – a decision she and her husband took when Michael was born. She was now unemployed, without a regular income, at the age of 40-something had to move back in with her parents who lived outside of the province and had just had her car repossessed.
Struggling to make ends meet Michael’s mom had been left with no other option but to remove him from Maritzburg College and to move him to a more affordable school closer to her.
That’s the brief outline.
What colours in this picture is that Michael’s grandfather, his uncle and his dad were/are all College Old Boys. His dream since he could remember was to be a boarder at Maritzburg College – like the rest of his family.
And he had flourished in this College environment. He had immersed himself in the BE culture, had shown commitment and discipline by participating fully in as many of the sports and co-curricular activities as time would allow and had received glowing feedback from his teachers, mentors and housemasters. A harder worker you would not find.
As a young, impressionable 2nd form (Grade 8) boy Michael was in need of a structured, stable environment. In need of good, male role-models who were active, present participants in his life. And he had found that at College.
The plea for help from mom and boy was the last roll of the dice for them: “Please can you help us try keep Michael at College”.
And the tug at the heartstrings was that for all of the reasons that a boy might have to call “time” on his College journey, money should really not be one of them. Not for a hard-working and committed young boy with an enviable passion for the school.
In a perfect alignment of stars the universe crossed our Foundation’s path with that of a generous benefactor with whom we had the opportunity to share Michael’s story. As if by design it so happened that our benefactor’s College story followed a similar path – ending with him having to leave Maritzburg College in his 4th form (Grade 10) year. And although he had gone on to do very well for himself and unashamedly still refers to himself as a “College Old Boy”, by his own admission he lives with a certain amount of regret that he was unable to finish College on his own terms and occasionally yearns for what could have been.
Our Old Boy become the saviour of Michael’s College journey. He generously offered an annual pledge towards tuition and boarding costs for the next four years – as long as Michael continued to embrace all that College offered and continued to make the most of this opportunity.
A year on and this story is still a work in progress. Michael has done very well academically with all of his marks in the upper 70’s and 80’s. He was a regular for the “B” team in both rugby and soccer this year and the feedback from his teachers and housemaster is inspiring. He is always polite and friendly and often pops in just to say thank you and share a piece of news with us.
The sad reality however is that Michael’s situation is not unique. There are many College Boys who find themselves in these situations and for whom there may not be a generous benefactor stepping forward to help.
College means different things to different people and our shared passion for this school is vested in what it means to each of us individually. We recognise the value of the College journey in our own lives and the importance of boys continuing to be afforded the opportunity to experience this journey.
In terms of you and me supporting these journeys through the College Foundation there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Yes, we have the occasional supporter who can make a significant impact in someone’s life all on his (or her) own. But for most of us our value lies in being a part of a greater solution – part of a community of donors and benefactors who pay it forward through regular, specially-tailored gifts and commitments, through our continued support and involvement.
To me this is the bedrock on which College is built – the reason we all pulled that same jersey over our heads, all blackened out our boots – we are part of a team, each with a particular role to play and collectively we can help change lives and shape futures.
My appeal to you is to put a value on your College road travelled and to help pay this forward through a commitment to the College Foundation.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to take the first step…
*With his permission our bursary recipient’s name has been changed