The end of era at Lady Grey Arts Academy, farewell Mr Bekker
On Friday 29 January 2021, Lady Grey Arts Academy bid an emotional farewell to its Principal, Mr. Hendrik Bekker. The ceremony was held in the LGAA school hall and was well attended not only by staff but also by representatives of the School Governing Body and the Department of Education.
Mr. Bekker arrived at the school, then known as the Witteberg Academy for Arts and Music, in January of 1997 and as he himself describes it, “the rest is history”. Although he spent some time away from the school, he always found his way back until in 2009 he returned as Principal.
As Principal, the role he played not only at the school but also in the community as a whole, cannot be overstated. As a leader he was inspirational, always managing to get the best out of not only his staff but also the students. It was notable how involved he was with every aspect of the school. He kept his finger on the pulse and was always ready with a word of advice or encouragement.
Perhaps his greatest attribute, however, was his ability to trust his team. Rather than a “boss”, he was an ally. It is this approach that made him not only popular, but also effective. Where others would have instructed, he instead inspired.
As Mr. Bekker himself stated at the farewell, there are too many memories to mention individually. And that is perhaps a good thing, for he was more to the school and community than a collection of moments. He was a steady presence that could always be counted on.
Mr. Bekker will be sorely missed and it is with heavy but thankful hearts that everyone at the school and in the community would like to wish him happiness and success in his future endeavours.
Below is a transcript of an interview with Mr. Bekker, held just before he left:
How long did you work at Lady Grey Arts Academy and how did it happen that you came to work here? At the end of 1996 I saw an advertisement for a teaching post at the Witteberg Academy for Arts and Music (as the school was known then). I was intrigued by the name of the school, enquired about the position, and the rest is history. I started teaching here in January 1997 and have spent most of my time ever since at the school. I left at the end of 1999, but returned in 2004. In September 2007 I became HOD in Calitzdorp, only to return as principal of the Lady Grey Arts Academy in June 2009.
Were there high and low points in your time at the school? I treasure many fond memories of my time at the Lady Grey Arts Academy. It would be impossible to single out a specific event as a highlight. There were many highlights… too many to mention. On the contrary, I prefer to forget about bad experiences as soon as I can… there certainly were some lows, but I cannot think of anything that warrants being mentioned here. My time as principal of the Lady Grey Arts Academy will probably always be one of the highlights of my career.
What will you miss most about the school? I will miss many things… and many people, but what I will miss most is probably the excitement of hosting a production and watching, with pride, as our learners perform and excel. And I will certainly miss listening to the choir’s rendition of “The very best time of year” at the Christmas Concert!
Will we see you at the next Passion Play? Without a doubt. I might even play Nicodemus again; who knows?
What would you say is your main reason for moving on? I have been in this position for 11 years now… and it is time for something new. One becomes complacent, and that is in nobody’s best interest.
Do you have any last words for the community of Lady Grey and Aliwal North? The Lady Grey Arts Academy plays an important role in the sustainability of Lady Grey, but it is difficult too for a school to survive in a small town like Lady Grey. The school heavily depends on the support from the community – it needs all the support it can get. People should remember this. When they support an event at the school, they are not only supporting the school; they are also supporting Lady Grey. The Lady Grey Passion Play is an extraordinary event. Very few, if any, small villages like Lady Grey will succeed in hosting an event like this, let alone do it for 18 consecutive years. It is my sincere hope that, once the COVID-19 pandemic has passed (which will happen), the whole community will take a hand in reviving the Passion Play.
Any last words for the parents and learners at LGAA? Value what you have! The school is a special place because things are done in a very special way. If learners, teachers and parents start doing things in an ordinary way, the school will soon be just an ordinary school. Remember: Any place (a school as well) is only as good as the people who belong to it.