Geoff Ward’s memories

I remember with great pride the time spent working at Veld and Vlei, Greystone! My Veld and Vlei friends and colleagues are among the finest people with whom I have ever had the privilege and pleasure to work during my years in education in South Africa, New Zealand, Nigeria, Azerbaijan and Russia. 

It is well known that Outward Bound’s evolution came via a joint effort between the celebrated German educator, Kurt Hahn, and the British shipping baron, Sir Lawrence Holt, to teach young British sailors vital survival skills during World War II. With a curriculum largely based on Hahn’s belief that character development is just as important as academic achievement, a rigorous programme of experiential learning in the post-war period evolved. Hahn discovered that people put in challenging outdoor situations gained confidence, redefined their own perceptions of their personal capabilities, learnt to demonstrate compassion, and developed a remarkable spirit of camaraderie with their peers.

As you know, during the apartheid years, South Africans were compelled to develop their own unique programme and the pioneers of Veld and Vlei are to be commended for doing just that! Not only did they create a rigorous programme designed to develop character in our country’s youth, they set about breaking down cultural and racial barriers by making Veld and Vlei an inclusive organisation! It was so inspiring to observe youngsters from South Africa’s rich diversity of cultural and ethnic backgrounds discovering about themselves the very qualities that Kurt Hahn had discovered so many years before. In my view, given the country’s current challenges, South Africa is now in as much need of a similar programme as it was during the apartheid years! 

My association with Veld and Vlei goes back to my years as a pupil at Springs Boys’ High School, when I attended the summer course G5. As a student teacher, I returned to Veld and Vlei as an instructor in the mid-1970s and served on numerous courses. With a view to facilitating sponsorship for trainees, I also liaised with the Rotary Club in the north-eastern suburbs of Johannesburg, while serving as a house master at Jeppe High School for Boys. I served as chief instructor of the first Veld and Vlei course for girls, but, unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the very competent lady warden. Henry and Jo Hyde were naturally very much involved in the planning and organising of the first girls’ course, which proved to be a resounding success. As a teacher in the Natal Midlands, I served on the Estcourt Veld and Vlei Committee with Haywood Tanner-Tremaine, Alan Webster, Henry and Jo Hyde, and others, in the early 1980s. 

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