Eugene Exford, Leigh Ann Goosen head prefects Uitenhage High School 1992I have been informed of a number of comments that has been made on a certain Facebook profile regarding a donation and trophy that I’ve made to Uitenhage High School, also referred to as Uitenhage Senior Secondary School in honour of my late friend and classmate Eugene Exford RIP 1999.

Him and his wife died 10 years ago in a tragic car accident near Colchester. His daughter and only child survived the accident. As an ex-headboy of the school and an exceptional leader amongst his peers, I thought it befitting that I should donate a trophy and prize money to a grade 12 learner for “exceptional leadership abilities”, in memory of my friend. I’ve presented this idea to the school and they’ve agreed to it, as well as a couple of other specific conditions that relate to the dispensation of the prize money. Part of these conditions were that the school must invite Eugene’s mom and daughter also to the event, in view of the initial presentation of the award.

Great was my surprise (and disappointment!) when at the time of the presentation of the award NO mention was made that the trophy was presented to the school “in memory of Eugene Exford RIP 1999” (as stipulated in the agreement I’ve made with them). I was sitting next to Eugene Exford’s mother AND his surviving daughter at the time. If I did not stand up and say something at this crucial junction, I would have failed in my duty to my friend, his family and one of the greatest leaders Uitenhage High has ever produced. I stood up to my feet and corrected Mr Ernie Heynes (the MC at the time). The other MC, Mr Joseph Paul Slingers, Jr was in the same class, 10D, with Eugene Exford and myself, and he also neglected to mention anything during the multiple opportunities he had as the co-MC for the evening.

To his honour, I must say the Mr Ernie Heynes afterwards apologised to for the confusion around the hand-over of the trophy – to wit that they did not announce the name as stipulated in my agreement with the school. I acknowledge that some level of pressure on finalising the programme came into play. However, it is tradition at all institutions that present awards or trophies, that the names of the donors be announced, and more specifically the name of the award or trophy be read out. This is also common sense. This can become a very sensitive issue, so I expect Uitenhage High school, as a professional, public institution of high standing, to take take great pains in not mucking this up.

Regarding the dispensation of the prize money – the school asked to award a specific amounts of money to the winner of the “Eugene Exford Leadership award” and to each of the winners of the best all-rounder awards in every grade – not to the only to the specific winner. To my surprise it was announced during the proceedings of the event that the money would not be paid directly to the award winners but that “it would be paid towards the learners’ school fees for the following year”. Since this was so blatantly against our initial agreement, I have assumed that the MC has made another unfortunate blunder with this announcement. The following day I’ve sent my awesome PA (Yusuf Moses) to the school with a cheque in the name of each of the prize winners to present to them personally – a very small token from my side to thank and encourage these learners personally for their hard work and commitment. As it panned out my assumption was horribly wrong – it was no blunder on the side of the announcer; oh no – the school has in fact blatantly dishonoured our initial agreement.

I take issue with the school for not only breaking these agreements but with various times in the past that they’ve broken specific agreements I had with them. If anyone is interested I can provide examples of this. The pendulum swings both ways.

I feel very, very frustrated in my dealings with the school. I know that I will probably not be able to make the magnitude of contributions of the Jeeva’s or Mr JP Keyter to the school but I try my best to at least do my little part. But as it were, I feel that I will have no further dealings with the school in the future. They might not feel the lost in monetary value but I’m afraid that the lost of a heart that once beat warmly and lovingly for my alma mater, would make this place a fraction of a degree more colder.

In the past I’ve experienced both challenge and support from Uitenhage High. This can be confirmed by speaking to people like previous principal, Mr Slingers, Sr. or current principal, Mr Timothy Heynes, as well as others like Mr Simon Adams, his wife Mrs Adams, Mrs Mac Redcliffe, Dr Carlos Bezuidenhout, Prof Cecil Arnolds, etc.

This trophy was purchased October 2008 and handed over to the school several months ago so it could be ready for this year’s Awards evening. It is 2009 now and 10 years since the death of him and his wife in the terrible car accident. Neither him, nor his mother or his only surviving daughter was acknowledged throughout the entire evening’s proceedings during the principals’ welcome, the various stages of the two MC’s or during the “Vote of Thanks” by Mr Chris Rossouw.

You decide for yourself how you feel about my reaction. I do not believe in my heart of hearts, this school deserves the cash donation, and therefore I have decided to give it directly to the winners. I am extremely proud of Charl-Jade Petrus, the new deputy head boy for winning this award, and the R500 cash donation that goes with it. I hope he buys airtime and joins us on Facebook with at least some of the money.