Dear Parents,

What is in a name?

One of the most striking scenes you can experience is hiking through the mountains and coming across a herd of Nguni cattle. These unique cattle, with their dappled hides, gentle nature and inquisitiveness, are intrinsic to the South African landscape.

A past colleague of mine, Tim Javis, once commented on the importance of the naming of Nguni cattle. I want to elaborate on his idea.

There are more than 300 different names assigned to the varying patterns found on the hides.  As every cow is marked so individually, it is possible to distinguish each one in the herd by its hide. This has promoted an individual naming process where each member of the herd is quite literally known by name.

Naming the cattle is a fundamental part of the care of the herd. To know each cow by name enables nurturing of the herd. Even horn shapes determine names like “Mfazi wa lahlega icxala” or the “woman who lost her court case”. This name is given to cows with horns that grow forward and then back, thus resembling a woman with her hands in the air!

Here are a few examples:

Below is “Inasenezimbukane.” Meaning : ” flies in the buttermilk “

Another superb example is that of “Abafazibewela”. The literal meaning of this name is, “the woman lifts her skirts to cross the river” and this perfectly describes the cow shown below:

Below is “Inkomo engamafu.” Meaning: “beast which is like clouds.”

In naming a cow, great care is taken to ensure that an appropriate name is given. The name must reflect the mannerisms and appearance of a cow. Having said this, there are certain parallels that we can draw from the Nguni naming process and The Bay Academy.

We should know each child in our care well enough to ‘name’ them.

Naming, in this sense, means to distinguish each child, to know their routines and character and to anticipate their needs. For all our students, we should recognize their weaknesses and their strengths, so that our care for them is informed and personalized to their requirements.

Having been at The Bay Academy for 6 months, I have started to know all the students well. I have become sensitive to their idiosyncrasies, their strengths and their concerns.

We must never stereotype our children. Each is an individual with unique characteristics and needs.

At the end of each term, I am involved in reading and signing the end-of-term reports. As I was reading each report, it became very apparent that the teachers have a finger on the pulse of every child. The very personalized and

 highly detailed comments underscore the care and passion that the teachers invest in the school and the children.

The comments ranged from celebrating the diligent and conscientious, to strongly worded warnings to those who were below par in their work ethic. The most meaningful comments for me were those that applauded a child who had overcome a challenging situation and risen above the occasion to excel.

As I mention at all Assemblies, our students are particularly well-mannered in daily greetings. Being greeted by name is not only good etiquette but affirms to the recipient that they have been “seen” with a personalized greeting.

This is so important and as a school we must nurture the personalised experience of the students and teachers.

Kind regards,

John Alexander