On the 6th of February, most of the students and staff of the British Academy left for Kwalata in the Dinokeng area for the annual school camp. The weeks preceding the camp saw groans and moans from many students, and very few seemed especially excited about the camp – until they arrived. Even before reaching the main gate, zebras and antelope could be glimpsed from the bus windows.
After the bus had stopped, the effect of the natural silence and fresh air as well as the general distance from city life and all it entails was immediately visible. At first, the confiscation of watched, phones, and any other impediments to disconnecting from the technology-filled day-to-day life of an average urban child palpably affected many of the students. When that noise is removed, all that remains is silence, and keeping company with yourself.
Though many students were at first unfamiliar with the process of introspection, Kwalata puts one in the right frame of mind to get to know oneself a little. Combined with wholesome fresh-air activities such as arts and crafts, archery, game drives and group performances, as well as the thoroughly helpful Xpand program, every student who went on the camp arrived there as a mystery to themselves and left, so I hope, as their own best friend. Unlike other school camps that emphasise physical activity for its own sake, or getting out of the city for its own sake, Kwalata and Xpand made sure that these were means to something far more important: self-knowledge and authentic identity formation. If that were the goal of the camp, then it was undoubtedly a massive success.
Knowing and growing yourself hurts, so there were tears and break-downs here and there, but even (and perhaps especially) these moments left those students who came out the other side forever changed, and forever knowing more about who they really are and where they really want to go.
Being a teacher is easy when the students have a well-developed sense of autonomy and personal responsibility, and both these capacities showed themselves and were pulled out and solidified by the environment at Kwalata. My sincere thanks to the Kwalata camp staff, the Xpand facilitators, and especially each and every student, for making the annual school camp an incredibly valuable and unforgettable experience.