SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT EXCELLENCE
Summerhill Stud, South Africa
When we first published our plans for our School of Management Excellence, there were more than a few who dubbed it an outrageous extravagance for a Zulu farm. They may have been right; we must confess to a few doubting moments ourselves, but when we realised what it could mean not only for the upliftment of our own people, but for the nation as a whole, we had no choice. The idea was born of a conviction that this country is home to some of the world’s best stockmen, that given a chance, a school like this could be a game-changer. It has been. We were convinced too, that worldwide, our sport was lamentably under-served in its learning institutions. If this was the price of education in a game that had done us well, we were willing to pay it. Some may feel that they have plenty to lose in defeat but whatever Summerhill had, we were ready to give up for victory. Done properly, the dreams would accrue. They have.
The Heritage Day long weekend seemed an appropriate occasion for Heather Morkel to convene the graduation ceremony for the class of 2013. Attendees flew in from the four corners of the land, the students delivered their final presentations, and the judges, literally, got down to work. We’ve always said we’ve been lucky in our lives at Summerhill, and one of the relationships we pride most, is with the people who serve as our school governors. Alan Magid was as distinguished a member of the South African judiciary as recent history has known; Ronnie Napier, an exalted member of the Johannesburg legal fraternity, is a past chairman of the National Horse Racing Authority. Ronnie’s career in horse racing includes the breeding of J&B Met hero, Charles Fortune, and two Northern Guest standouts: S.A. champion stayer Travel North, and the Fillies Guineas heroine Dance Every Dance. More recently he was co-owner of the champion three year old miler, Imbongi and the Fillies Guineas ace, Fisani. Judge Magid, on the other hand, found himself on the inside of the Gold Cup winner’s circle with Icona, but what surprised me most as a young solicitor back in the 80s, was his knowledge of breeding. When in his days as an advocate, I handed him a brief involving a dispute over the ownership of a stallion prospect, he immediately recited the horse’s full lineage. Remembering that this was long before the age of the internet, I quickly realised this was a man I could do business with!
Though schools of our kind are hardly profit-making ventures, particularly when their raison de’etre is the upliftment of people, budgets are inevitably pitched at trying to break even, and even that is difficult. Without sponsors, we could never have been where we are today, and the first to put up their hands three years ago was Investec Private Bank. Quick on their heels, came Con Roux of NTC3, who manage our local toll concession, and who have more than 70 projects on the go between here and Johannesburg. Out of the blue, towards the end of last year, came a fairy godmother in the form of the national Cathsseta (which falls under the portfolio of Dr Blade Nzimande’s Ministry of Higher Education). On Monday evening, Leonard Strong delivered a stirring speech on their behalf on their reasons for supporting us, and why they felt this course was so worthwhile. Besides the seven scholarships they provided last year, they have also assisted in funding an overseas work experience for one of last year’s deserving graduates, Maine Chance’s Marius Losch, to New Zealand.
It seems that Heather’s work at the school and the marvellous outcomes we’ve witnessed since the first graduates were capped, have captured the attentions of a fairly broad audience. It’s comforting to know that there are people in this world who understand that talent and intelligence are spread evenly, but that opportunity is not. They also have social consciences, and they know that without funds, it’s difficult to achieve much in a costly world. There’ve been some inspiring stories at our School of Excellence, the one most-told, being Thabani Nzimande’s “Best Practical Student” award at the English National Stud, which would not have been possible of it were not for the generosity of the trustees who run the Childwick Trust, founded by the late Jim Joel, benefactor, horseman and nephew of diamond king, Barney Barnato. Trustees, Anthony Cane and John Wood first came to Hartford by dint of coincidence, and as it turned out, Anthony is chairman of one of the world’s most famous racecourses, Epsom.
Though the main thrust of the Childwick Trust’s work in South Africa involves disadvantaged children under the age of 5, these gentlemen immediately saw the value of what was happening at our school, and they endowed us with an annual scholarship for a deserving student to the English National Stud, the most venerable of these institutions and the oldest worldwide.
We had a dilemma this year, arising from the anticipation that there would be almost nothing separating the top two or three students, and the Childwick Trust have more than come to the party. They have made two scholarships available for 2014, and that made the judges’ task that bit easier: John Motaung (a previous recipient of a Summerhill scholarship to Becky Thomas’ academy in the United States) and Megan Trott have big boots to fill, but they were both more than deserving awardees, and they won’t let the standards this school has set, down.
The other thing which has made a material difference was the attendance by Muzi Mwandla and Leonard Strong of the Cathsseta, who brought not only the power of government funding to the table, but also a good stretch of imagination. With their help, a further three international scholarships were awarded (that means five, or 50% of the total enrolment this year) will be going abroad on post-graduate work experiences, and if ever there was an incentive to attend the school, it lies here. For the record; these are the details:
|John Motaung||Summerhill Stud / CATHSSETA||Childwick Trust Scholarship – joint Top Student||British National Stud, United Kingdom|
|Megan Trott||Self-funded||Childwick Trust Scholarship – joint Top Student||British National Stud, United Kingdom|
|Willem Arries||Cheveley Stud / Cape Breeders & Investec Funding||Best Practical Student – CATHSSETA International Internship/Scholarship||Ireland / United States|
|Hazel Kayiya||Gold Circle||Team Player of the Year and CATHSSETA International Internship||Racing Operations - Hong Kong|
|Tshepiso Matsoele||CATHSSETA||CATHSSETA International Internship/Scholarship||United States|
And finally, Summerhill awarded three internships for the immediate practical period to Kabelo Nkoane, Tshepiso Matsoele and Megan Trott.