#125DSJ – A Week of Celebration

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#125DSJ – A Week of Celebration

16 October 2015

During the week of 11 to 18 September, the Deutsche Internationale Schule Johannesburg experienced unprecedented celebrations.  We are grateful for our rich history and traditions which provide a sound base for future successes and growth.  The festive week revisited the past, rejoiced in the present and invested in the future of our school.  Internal and external stakeholders were invited to various events which delighted the senses and gave a deep pride for being part of this amazing institution.

The Orchestra Evening was prepared with great meticulousness after months of hard work.  We have to thank our sister schools, DHPS, DSK and DSP, whose efforts also contributed to the success of the final performance.  The many fears that the orchestra may never come together were totally blown away by an evening filled with thrills and goose bumps.  Congratulations to Richard Cock, the most entertaining conductor, and Mrs Guddat, the musical director and overall coordinator, on an evening we will remember for a long time.  A big thanks also goes to Mrs Ziegler, the artistic director, and Mrs Anja Gutmayer, who found beds for the visiting musicians and teachers.  Mrs Freitag mentioned in her address at the Festakt that she had never witnessed a school concert of such magnitude as the Orchestra Evening.

The festive atmosphere brought on by the success of the orchestra evening left a tingle in the air for the rest of the festive week.  Saturday morning, the Festakt, brought speakers from all our stakeholders together.  Mr Lindner, German Ambassador to South Africa, Mrs Freitag, German Member of Parliament, and Mr Dicke, vice chairman of the ZfA, brought well wishes from Germany.  Mr Montjane, Executive Director of ISASA, and Ms Mowatt, representative of the IEB, both representing our closest partners in Education in South Africa, reiterated the good reputation of the DSJ as being one of the top schools in Johannesburg.  The chairman of our board, Mr Gutmayer, our Headmaster, Mr Bachmeier, and our Head Prefects, Jessica Hiesterman and Claude Formanek, highlighted the virtues of the DSJ as they see and experience it from the inside.  This well balanced mix of speeches was alternated with entertainment brought by our very own DSJ talent: The choirs of the Vorschule and Kindergarten, Peter Johannsen on the piano and our DSJ Marimba Band.

At the conclusion of the Festakt, guests were ushered onto the DSJ hockey field, which was beautifully transformed into a German Village Fair.  The butcher, the baker, the goldsmith, the fishmonger and many others provided delicacies for the hungry and opportunities to acquire exquisite gifts.  Current families and staff members were joined by ex-pupils and ex-colleagues for a very festive and reminiscent celebration.  Memories were shared around photographs provided by the Alumni club.  While the adults were having a good time in and around the beer tent, the younger members of the DSJ community enjoyed activities such as bungee jumping and giant sliding castles on the soccer field.  The whole DSJ community had a thorough celebration.

Not forgetting our roots, we reassembled in the Friedenskirche on Sunday morning.  This is the place where the old school in Hillbrow was situated.  Our school grew out of the church and Pastor Hermann Kuschke, the Lutheran pastor, was also the very first teacher.  Bishop Müller and Mrs Nolte-Schamm gave a very inspiring sermon, reminding us that science and religion can coexist.  The sermon was further enhanced by the wind band of the Nordrand Gemeinde, DSJ flautists and the choir of the Church of Peace.  After refreshments and many hearty exchanges, the weekend celebrations were concluded to the satisfaction of everyone.

The week continued on the Monday and Wednesday evenings with a surprisingly entertaining version of the German classic drama Woyzeck.  This play is an exploration of a man’s freedom and the role of destiny that traditionally leaves the audience with a sense of hopelessness, emptiness and even horror.  Mrs Stölting, however, succeeded in softening the sharp edges by introducing dance, music and song and thus making the play enjoyable by all ages.  The vulnerability of the character Woyzeck was contrasted with the themes of love and hope presented through music and dance.  The cast included performers from all sections of our school and was a great showcase for DSJ talent.

The Tuesday was aptly named Schülertag. Indeed, the activities of this day were conceived to provide our current learners with the opportunity to feel that “We are celebrating our birthday”.  Each section of the school organised educational and fun activities suited to each age group.  In the secondary school, certain projects were started two months ahead of the Festwoche. Ms Reichert and the Grade 5 and 6 learners compiled documents and collected objects depicting life in 2015.  These were buried in a time capsule for opening at the next jubilee celebrations.  Ms Mellor and the Grade 7 and 8 learners prepared elements that formed part of a Future Garden.  The products of their work were shared in an assembly on the Schülertag.  During this time, the sound of 300 drums filled the early Johannesburg air as professional Djembe drummers from the Drum Café led the senior learners in a mass drumming session.

In a second session, the whole secondary school simultaneously took part in “The Crazy Games”.  Simple, short and fun challenges were set up by the prefects.  For 80 minutes, 600 pupils were united in continuous laughter and eager participation.  The fun had by far outweighed the prizes of chips and coke for the winning year group.  But, this was the idea.

What is a birthday without a cake and candles?  Thanks to the creative baking talents of Ms Wilkins and the organisational skills of Mrs Maclachlan, we had a huge 125 year cake made up of 1200 individual cupcakes and a chocolate centre piece in the form of the DSJ bell tower.  For this ceremonious occasion, the whole school came together on the hockey field.  The candles were lit, the preschool kids gathered round the huge cake and eagerly blew out the 125 candles, Mr Bachmeier cut the cake and over 1 100 voices sang “Happy Birthday dear DSJ” and “Zum Geburtstag, liebe DSJ”.  Then one by one, each class came forward to get their share of sweetness.

Then the music started.  After a line dance competition, our learner DJs Munashe Kugarakuripi and Tomislav Popov provided the thrilling sounds for our Colour Fest.  Mrs Hanouch and a group of volunteers made sure that each learner received a pouch of powder paint. To truly appreciate the exhilaration, one has to watch the YouTube video or look at the photographs.  What struck most staff members was the DSJ learner body all united in good, clean fun.  Some teachers could not resist joining in.  Apologies to the parents who all had some extra tough washing to do, but having witnessed the looks on our learners’ at the faces, it was worth it!

To celebrate the past brings hope for the future and what better way than to leave something for future generations at the DSJ.  On Thursday, the DSJ celebrated Arbor Day.  We had a special assembly to remind ourselves of our precious home, the Earth, and our responsibilities to preserve it for future generations.  Topics such as recycling, conservation and active renewal of resources were presented.  Mrs Nowbotsing and her Enviro Club were responsible to source plants and designate areas where they can be planted.  Thanks to our sponsors, Bayer and Clothes to Cash, we could plant various new plants around the school.  An indigenous garden is being prepared at the corner of Sans Souci and Napier Road and 125 Spekbome were planted in different areas of the school.  This occasion was made special by the surprise visit of Miss Earth, Miss Air and Ella Bella herself.  They attended the assembly, addressed our pupils and assisted in the planting of the trees.  The DSJ Generation Earth Group also took the opportunity to organise a special green civvies day in order to raise funds for an upcoming green summit.

On Thursday afternoon a special event was held to thank the staff for their contributions to the school. The School Management team manned the braai and the beer taps.  All employees were invited to simply enjoy an afternoon of good food and Gemütlichkeit.  Mr Bachmeier took the opportunity to thank all staff members for their input in making our 125 year celebration week a success.

On Friday evening, the Festwoche ended with a Grand Ball.  Good music, entertainment, fine dining and dancing delighted the guests.  The Festwoche had a most fitting and elegant conclusion.

After such a week, one remains filled with a sense of deep satisfaction and appreciation for the DSJ and each and every member that makes up this institution of note.  The DSJ is a resilient organism that has sovereignly survived 125 years and that is very proud and sure of itself, yet does not cling to or repeat traditionally founded rituals.  It rather survives by constantly re-evaluating itself and re-adapting to ever changing circumstances.  One must admire an institution so critical of its own actions.  It truly sets an example befitting its guiding principles which promise to prepare young minds for a global future, not shunning critical thought and embracing change.

  • I would like to thank all the people who worked at conceiving this unforgettable week in the history of the DSJ:
    •    The Festkomitee:  Mrs Gaby Ullmann, Mr Ralf Franke, Mr Jobst Schulte-Brader, Mr Savo Ceprnich and Mrs Susanne Winter.
    •    The members of the Events committee: Mrs Brigitte Helmrich, Mr Mike Stenemann, Mrs Annette Holtmann, Mrs Pam Johannsen (It mostly happened the way you planned it!)
    •    The members of the teachers’ committee:  Mrs Dena Hanouch, Mrs Lilo Maclachlan, Mrs Mattie Strydom, Ms Katy Mellor and Ms Katharina Reichert.
    •    Mrs Marian Wilkins and the Prefects team of 2015
    •    The whole admin staff and ground staff who ultimately had to carry out all our ideas
    •    Mrs Sam Gibb and the MBC
    •    The Regenbogen-Kids Vorschule Choir
    •    Mrs Mattie Strydom and Mrs Siebold for the beautiful flowers

Thank you that we can rely on each other and trust that it will all come together.  And it did!

Jan van Wyk
October 2015