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Peterhouse Boys

B Block Expedition to Chimanimani National Park 2017

With Outward Bound Zimbabwe (OBZ) - September/October

As a top educational institution, Peterhouse does try and do its part in developing aspects of a pupil’s character that will support them long after they have left school. Peterhouse takes this responsibility very seriously indeed.

It fully intends to support parents to help their son build special characteristics – like patience, emotional intelligence, resilience, a greater self-reliance and never-ending grit and perseverance. This is done using the great outdoors, and comes in addition to educating boys in the classroom and on the sport’s field. It is a very unique and special aspect of our school curriculum.

Together with the other outdoor education programs offered to every year group at Peterhouse, the B Block Chimanimani Expedition is one of the oldest in tradition and is the most grueling. Working with Outward Bound Zimbabwe (OBZ), we provide a week of tough physical challenges as well as activities which provide a platform for self-discovery and collaboration.

This adventure comes at a very special time for a boy at Peterhouse. It is a watershed moment, as they leave the junior half of their secondary school experience and enter life as a ‘senior’. Many are about 15 years old and many are actively searching for a sense of identity and purpose.

Kurt Hahn, the founder and creator of Outward Bound in 1941, believed very strongly in adventure-based experiential learning (learning by doing). He claimed he gathered various ideas from other educationalists and during the Second World War, he launched this unbelievable program that is, still 60 years on, serving and educating thousands of young people around the world.
Hahn discovered an inscription carved on the wall of a church in Belgium.

It simply read ‘Plus est en vous’.

This is translated as ‘there is more in you than you think’.

This quote became very appropriate for the boys while on their Outward Bound Experience. Very often, I would recite it, just to encourage a boy as he descended a long abseil, or faced a big, steep hill to summit Kweza or a night on his own doing ‘Solo’. It really is a very appropriate quote to many of us in today’s world. ‘There is more in you than you think!’

If one was to ask any B Block boy about their three day expedition into the National Park, they would more than often say ‘I hated the walking but loved the views’, or ‘it was so much ‘guff’ but the feeling of satisfaction at the top was worth it’. Many would say that it was the best experience they have ever had – but ‘not at the time’! Being outdoors, sometimes uncomfortable and usually in an unfamiliar environment is not what most 15 year old boys these days would voluntarily want to deal with!
All of them summited the highest peak in the Range – Kweza and they either summited Peza or walked to and swam in the beautiful Southern Lakes. One group walked a massive 50km in three days – from one end of the Park to the other. Recurring issues that we always engage in and have to discuss involve ‘who is carrying the rubbish’, ‘why we wait for slower walkers’ and ‘whose job is it to wash up the dirty pots after supper’. Jobs that no-one likes to do, but cannot be shrugged off. Sharing out the food for everyone to carry fairly also stimulates heated debates and the need for compromise and kindness. Conversations that we have on the mountain side about emotive issues such as these, and others, pave the way for those they will end up having in the dormitory, at home, or in the work place, often in a completely different context.

The whole issue of being outdoors pales into insignificance, when you see the self-discovery and methods of communication and team work playing out in real life. Many lessons are learnt in the fresh air, under shady trees, in a vulnerable state, where there is no hot shower, no fancy clothes, no gadgets, no smart car or pre-prepared meal or adult carers to do the hard work for them. All I can say is that I witness ‘growth’ in personality and ‘discovery’ of character here like no-where else in my job – either in the classroom or on a sports field.
Catalyzing this whole discovery process are the Outward Bound Instructors. I can document many a moving moment when I saw an Instructor share a quiet, caring word to a hesitant boy, a gentle hand on a shoulder, a high five to celebrate an accomplishment, a reassuring ‘you will be OK – keep going’. Many times I heard ‘let me show you’ as they helped create wooden pegs for their shelters or check harnesses during their rock climbing. Thank you Outward Bound Zimbabwe for being so supportive to Peterhouse for so many years. We would struggle to provide such a rich learning environment without you and your excellent services.

Our objectives were to provide an environment which could accelerate the development of compassion, self-reliance, endurance and service to others (and expecting nothing else in return). Were they met I wonder? Has there been a slight shift in a B Block boy’s mentality and personality? Is he showing promising signs of becoming a strong but caring, gritty but compassionate senior with initiative and resourcefulness? I leave the results and conclusion up those living around each boy – be it his parents, his extended family, teachers and friends to decide.

Sarah Shoesmith
Director of Extra Curricular Activities