Congratulations to former Headmaster, John Gardener, on celebrating his 90th birthday on 28 August 2020.

John, who served as Headmaster at Kingswood from Jan 1971 till April 1975, certainly left his footprint at Kingswood. An astute thinker and a fine leader he certainly was and it is such a pity that his term at Kingswood was so short.

Of his philosophy of education, John said:

 “A  headmaster is specially well stationed at the meeting place of forces and acquires his philosophy the hard way. Placed like a juggler – juggling many objects and deciding which one of them he can afford to drop without causing an explosion the Headmaster must develop a philosophy which issues as some variation on the theme of balance There must be a balance in many things: work and play; toughness and tenderness; stimulation and stabilizing; perhaps, above all, between freedom and discipline. This involves careful consideration of the nature of authority. Any balance requires both freedom and discipline. Remove freedom and you have chaos and destruction.

Authority is  part of  the  very essence of  any stable structure. It is the acknowledgment of the need for clearly understood relationships between the members of any organisation such as a school is. Authority is derived from function, therefore, and is necessary for community living, but it also arises from skill, from experience, from understanding and, above an, from personality. Personality and personal relationships are one of the most important things that school is all about. For better or for worse, the elusive, the indefinable, unteachable quality of personality holds the key. Perhaps this is why Christianity, the only effective redeemer of personality,is the most important dimension possible in our schools.

Based on this approach, which accepts the diversity of mankind togetherwith our unity as children of one God, whence come our common values, we must measure all we do and are at Kingswood. This is the spirit with which we temper our reasonable ambition to make everything here of the very finest.  This is our criterion, not as a competition or for praise and applause, but because to do worthwhile things properly, excellently and perseveringly well is our calling, our raison d’etre and a fulfilling of both our duty and our delight.”

One of the most momentous decisions taken at Kingswood must be the decision to become a co-educational school. John was integral in driving this concept and as we reflect on Kingswood’s success we need to thank this great man for his amazing vision.

To appreciate the quality of the mind and heart that was shaping the new Kingswood let this remarkable man speak for himself – and there’s no need to look further than his 1972 prize-giving address in which he said:

‘Some months ago many of you must have looked at one another “with wild surmise” as a new thing “swam into your ken”. Kingswood was going co-ed!’ This was the most momentous announcement of that year and possibly of Kingswood’s whole history. Silence did not reign long and the reaction has been overwhelmingly favourable. The College Council decision was unanimous and enthusiastic. It was taken in faith, but with a careful counting of the costs. It was felt that the system of coeducation, widely endorsed by most forward-thinking educationists here and overseas, was one with immense advantages both socially and educationally. The naturalness of day-by-day contact; enrichment of insights, knowledge and competition; and the civilising effect of combining tenderness and toughness are among the reasons that swayed the Council. This implies no criticism of the past but the seizing of an idea whose time has now come.

The provision of coeducation in the private school sector of South Africa is a new dimension within the established schools. Parents who want both private school education and co-education can now have it. It is not our intention to lose anything of the rich strong values of Kingswood; no one has yet begun to convince me that this can happen. Rather we shall be adding new dimensions in full measure pressed down and running over. One has to view our coeducational developments as part of the Kingswood tradition, which has always been a tradition of flexibility, of adaptation to change and of pioneering in advanced educational approaches. We do not delude ourselves that we are stepping into instant Utopia. We may have in fact exchanged one set of problems for another. But we believe in the validity of what has been decided. We are heartened by the response it has elicited. We believe we are taking a step forward.’

Highlights from John’s tenure as Headmaster were the introduction of coeducation; the modification of the school uniform; the change in the worship pattern for the school that brought about the right for the Senior School to hold its own Chapel services; improved matric results and the alterations to the Memorial Dining Hall. To say that the Gardeners now occupy a very special place in the respect and affection of the Kingswood community is an under­ statement.

Nothing could better testify to the nature of this humble man who served the College so well –  albeit for such a short time ··· than an extract from one of those three hymns that he wrote. It expresses the strong faith, the breadth of vision and the yearning of one who loves his country dearly and who has spent his life trying to lead young men and women into the way they should go.

Happy birthday John – Kingswood salutes you…..

A wonderful tribute was published by the Old Diocesan Union (Bishops) – John’s Alma Mater – in celebration of his birthday. Please click below access it click here: John Brett Gardener – Peerless South African Educational Statesman. A milestone birthday tribute from Dr Paul Murray, Bishops Archivist and Historian in Residence.

“Who will save our land and people”
by John Gardner (1983) [Hymns and Psalms #898]

Who will save our land and people?
Who can rescue us from wrong?
We are lost—faint, false, and foolish—
We have slighted God too long.
Save the people, Lord our Saviour,
Guide us home from country far;
Holy Fire, consume our rancours:
Thy Kingdom come—in Africa.

Make our land as clean and wholesome
As the white of sea-washed sands;
Stretch our vision vast and boundless
As our brown-spread, dusty lands.
Make our people strong and steadfast
As the hills that claw our sky;
Hear our prayer for land and people:
“God bless Africa”, we cry.

We believe God is our Saviour;
Christ enough to heal our land.
He will use the Church, His servants:
We on earth His stretched-out hand.
May His Church in loving service,
Shown to all whose path is rough,
Give a clear, united witness,
And proclaim: “Christ is enough!”

Christ enough to break all barriers;
Christ enough in peace, is strife;
Christ enough to build our nation;
Christ enough for death, for life.
Christ enough for old and lonely;
Christ enough for those who fall;
Christ enough to save the sin-sick;
Christ enough for one—for all!