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1988 Peterhouse Girls First Speech Day

Ladies, Gentlemen and Girls,

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all here this afternoon. We are keeping you pretty busy and I hope you will go home feeling that your journey has been worthwhile. I am very pleased to welcome our guests of honour, Mr and Mrs Fieldsend. As you probably know, Mr Fieldsend has been associated with Peterhouse for many years, as Assistant Master, Housemaster, Senior Master and finally, Rector, a post which he held with distinction during a very difficult period in the school's history.

After a brief period in the Insurance business, he is now the Beit Trust Representative in Zimbabwe, which he tells me is a wonderful job, involving travel in Southern Africa, giving other people's money away! We are delighted to have them with us at our first Prize Giving. The other figure on the platform is, as I'm sure you know, Dr Alan Megahey, Rector of Peterhouse and the driving force behind the establishment of both the Girl's School and Springvale House.

We are waiting for him to establish a university in the area quite soon! In addition to his many duties as Rector, he has found time to produce tonight's pantomime, which I know you're going to enjoy.

Fresh in my mind at this point is a remark made to me some years ago by a small boy, after what I thought had been a rather successful and interesting prize giving and speech day. He came up and said that prize giving was the most 'boring-est day of the year:' some of you may also remember the embarrassing day when pictures of Peterhouse boys reading comics during Speech Day appeared in the Herald a few years ago. My oldest son was just out of the picture too! However, despite all that, I feel that a few comments on the year are called for.

Peterhouse Girls Opens
It is uncertain who felt more nervous on 11th January this year - some 60 new girls or the Headmaster and Staff, all of whom were taking a step into the unknown. After 35 years as a junior boys' school, Springvale was about to open its doors to a new era of girls. Urinals had been removed, dormitories had been partitioned and feminised, basket ball and tennis courts were under construction, a less heavy diet had been arranged and now the day of reckoning had dawned. From the outset a remarkably friendly and happy spirit had prevailed in the school and the girls have, virtually without exception, settled happily and entered fully into the life of the place. This atmosphere has acted as a springboard for both academic and sporting success and we have achieved much during our first year - winning matches against much bigger schools, winning the 'B' Division swimming gala against four other schools, despite the fact that we lacked two age groups; having a player chosen for a Zimbabwean representative Hockey team and so on. This has all been very good for morale.

Staffing issues
Our successes have not happened by accident and I should like to thank the Staff most sincerely for their support and all that they have done for your daughters this year. They are all dedicated to their trade and they have all worked many hours more than is required of them, which is the hallmark of a good teacher.
If I may digress for a moment, there is a severe shortage of teachers in Zimbabwe at present, partly because of the huge escalation of education in this country since 1980. A number of our Independent schools are not completely staffed for January even now (we are fortunate (touch wood) in having a virtually complete staff for next year, though if anybody knows of a music teacher looking for a job, please let me know before you go home). The situation is not going to improve and I am serious in saying that the future of our schools is dependent on new recruits coming into the teaching profession in Zimbabwe. If you as parents can persuade your son or daughter to think seriously about teaching as a career, you could help save our schools, not to mention the fact that the life of a teacher is a good one, despite modest financial rewards. Think of the holidays and the fact that that the raw material is never the same two years running.

Miss Roberts left at the end of the first term and she had done sterling work as housemistress of one group of boarders in our first year. At the end of the second term, Miss Chiswa left to take up a scholarship at Harvard University in the USA. Out here in the country, we must expect a fairly quick turn round of young staff, but they are still worth having for their youthful enthusiasm and ideas.

I am sure that Miss Cowley won't forget her year with us, having had her belongings stolen from her future house before she arrived, having found an intruder in her bedroom, having been arrested and jailed in Harare as an accomplice of a gang who stole an Air Force helicopter, not to mention having her fiancé's car stolen from outside the San here and being scalded in an exploding bus! In between this, she has taught with great enthusiasm and she has started diving, gymnastics and aerobics in the school, besides coaching the Under 13 Hockey and Tennis teams. We wish her all good fortune at Eaglesvale, which has the sole merit of being closer to her fiancé than we are!

The first Sixth Formers
We had three Sixth Formers in the school this year and it has been their unenviable task to instil discipline into the junior girls from scratch. They have done an excellent job and they have established a rapport between themselves and the younger girls which is a fine example for others to follow. Of course, there have been mistakes and errors of judgement (it's not easy being a pioneer), but overall they have exercised a sympathetic, yet firm control over those in their care. We wish them all good fortune as the first top of the school products of Peterhouse Girl's School, as we do to those leaving the country for pastures new. If anyone needed proof of the good spirit prevailing between seniors and juniors, across the chasm of no B or A Blocks, they should have been here during the week before our first Vth and VIth Form dance when they would have seen virtually every-one in the school busily at work preparing the Hall for the Dance.

Academic paths
Now a few words on matters academic. Peterhouse is first and foremost an academic school and it is the intention on arrival that girls should follow an academic path to O level. However, this could prove a depressing route for some pupils, so we aim to provide alternative courses for those whom we feel would by faced by failure if we insisted on their doing nothing but academic subjects. I would stress that we are not offering a choice to either girls or parents, but we are trying to fit girls into courses where they stand the greatest chance of success. At the end of term we will, of course, inform you of our decisions for next year and I would ask you to abide by them unless there is a very valid reason for a change that we didn't know about.
The alternative subjects are, in the B Block: French or Commerce; History or Fabric and Fashion, with Art as an extra O level for those recommended to take it. In the C Block French is again coupled with Commerce, and Art is linked with Fabric and Fashion during this year. Domestic Science will be introduced at a later date - you can see the room that is being constructed for it, on your left.

Future developments
As far as future developments are concerned, we shall shortly begin construction of a 25 metre by 16 metre swimming pool in the area between the two sets of tennis courts funded by both Springvale and Peterhouse. This is a much needed facility for serious swimming, as the present 20 yard pool is just too small for us. We should like to build a diving well also, but this is a very costly 'extra', with fairly limited potential use, so it will have to wait. Next year we shall be using our present buildings almost to capacity, so a start will have to made on a new accommodation block for the more senior girls. This will probably be built in the area beyond the basketball courts and will come in two phases, in 1989 and 1990. We shall need another classroom, additional laboratory facilities and the Art School beyond my house is now ready for occupation, although we hope to enlarge it over the next year or two. The partitioning upstairs is proceeding apace and it will be ready for occupation next term - it has to be! So please feel free to walk round, if you haven't done so already. Your daughter will show you the various points of interest.

Springvale House
Before sitting down, I should like to say a few more thank yous. We co-exist on the same campus as Springvale House, our Prep school, sharing a number of facilities, especially the Hall and sports fields. It is not always easy to share when one is striving to provide as much as possible for one's own pupils and I should like to thank Mr Jon Calderwood for his co-operation during the year. We've only once discovered that we'd both made a home tennis fixture on the same day! When I tell you that he has managed to unearth a few bags of cement for us enabling us to finish the new showers upstairs, you will realise that he is my friend for life. The present cement shortage could have a detrimental effect on our physical progress and if anybody else knows of an untapped source, we'd be delighted to know about it!

Patrick Gosho
Thank you also to Mr Patrick Gosho, our ageless Estate Manager who is just completing his 30th year of service to the school - people often comment on how beautiful and well-looked after the grounds are, and this is due solely to his tireless energy and devotion to duty. He walks miles every day and would exhaust many people half his age.
Thank you to so many parents who have given their unstinting support to the school from the day it began, by donations of goods for our sales, cups and trophies, books, good will and encouragement. Thank you to the girls who have been so keen to see their school do well in all spheres of life. My wife and I have found this year very exciting and challenging and I am extremely grateful to the Peterhouse authorities for giving us the chance to set up this new addition to the family and also for their financial support in providing improvements to our existing facilities.

The future
To use a farming analogy, we have this year planted our seed beds. The staff have added as much fertiliser as they can and we have seen the plants begin to grow. We shall be reaping our early crop next term when the Z..J.C. results come out and we look forward to the major harvest in two years' time when our first O level candidates will be taking their exams. With our faith firmly rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ and demonstrated in our Chapel worship daily throughout the term, not to mention 35 years of solid tradition at Peterhouse, this part of the school is certainly 'Conditur in Petra' - Founded upon a Rock - and we look forward to the future with confidence and eager anticipation.

A M Hammond

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