Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Reporter
WHEN the 2017 schools first term started last month, a new era began at Falcon College when the private, previously a boys only institution in Esigodini, Matabeleland South, opened its doors to 12 girls.
It is not the first time that Falcon College has been home to girls but what makes the latest recruitment even more significant is that it seems like it will be a permanent feature at the school. A trip to the institution last Saturday showed that the girls had settled in well, as they were captured playing touch rugby.
Falcon College headmaster Reginald Querl who has been at the school since 2002 believes that this is a new approach and the girls are in high spirits. He pointed out that consultations had taken about six years before the idea of recruiting girls was finally implemented.
“These are not the first girls that have come to Falcon College, in previous years before my time, there were girls, a couple of girls at Falcon, some staff children were here, at one point there were a dozen girls. This is a new concept, the girls are fine, we have 12 girls in, we don’t have Form Ones, we have Forms Two, Three, Four, Five and Six girls. It has been fantastic, we have been happy with the way the whole thing has happened,’’ said Querl.
According to Querl, the biggest concerns came from the Falcon Old Boys whose point of view was that the culture of their former school would change if girls were enrolled. The headmaster, however, believes that they would not be much transformation at the institution besides the fact that the girls will be treated differently from the boys.
“We have debated the girl thing for about six years at Falcon, we put out a questionnaire to parents, at one point we asked the Old Boys and of course the boys at the school, we consulted with all parties. There were some Old Boys who were opposed to it, they felt that the ethos of the whole place may change. I am very pleased to say we don’t think the ethos will change, the girls will be treated slightly differently because we have to be, but they will adhere to the same kind of rules and same tidiness, same set of manners, all the things that we hold dear that Falcon does will continue,’’ said Querl.
The girls have had their boarding house created and named Kestrel House which is a small Falcon. Querl said the idea is to expand the dwellings for the girls to meet demand as indications are that more girls are coming in next year.
“At the moment, we have created a house for them, the intention is to build onto that house so it becomes a boarding house much the same as a boys’ boarding house. Our plans are to extend the house currently, put in some dormitories for next year, the following year even more so that’s our intention, we have the space where the house is, it’s a convenient place and of course we put infrastructure around that place, we are very happy with the situation of the place, we have called it Kestrel House,’’ Querl said.
With Falcon having produced great sportsmen over the years who have represented the country on the international scene, it is anticipated that with time the school will churn out sportswomen. For now, the girls are playing sports with the boys with only a water polo team for females the only full side that has been put together.
“Without a single doubt, that’s our intention, but obviously with 12 girls we are not in a position to do something drastical yet, our intention is obviously to develop this, the girls are already playing all the sports with the boys, we’ve got a water polo team where all the girls get together and play, they have played a couple of games as Falcon girls, they haven’t done particularly well but nonetheless they are very keen to get involved in that manner so in all areas the girls are involved,’’ said Querl.
Falcon College has not been spared by economic hardships with the numbers having gone down over the years. Querl said the highest population of pupils they had over the years was 420 with that having gone down to 370 at the moment. The recruitment of girls has been necessitated by that and the need from families to have both their sons as well as daughters in one school.
“In the last few years we have gone down a little bit, because of the economic situation, I am quite sure we have dropped a little bit, we were at 420, we are now 370, one of our major reasons for bringing in girls is obviously to cover the situation where we need more pupils but also there has been great demand from families to have a daughter and a son both at Falcon and this is what has driven the whole process. It is something that is here to stay,’’ said Querl.
He encouraged parents with girl children in Grade Seven to consider sending them to Falcon for Form One. With boys getting all the best coaching expertise from former Zimbabwe international sporting stars, Querl said they were looking to offer the same to girls in the long-term.
“There is absolutely no question this is a very good option, even as we speak there are more than 10 girls who have registered for Form One next year, we are delighted with the progress that we are making in that area, I would say to parents out there do think of this as an opportunity, we are not going to be able to offer the full sporting curriculum to girls in teams yet but if we get there that’s what we will do, we will treat them the same way we treat boys, we will give them the expertise in terms of coaching and we will help them every step of the way,’’ Querl said.
Last week, he headed off to Botswana and Zambia to meet with parents of children interested in enrolling at Falcon College.
Of the girls who are at the school now, there are a number from Botswana. At one time, there were 70 boys from Zambia at Falcon but that number has gone down.
On why parents should send their children to Falcon, Querl believes that the school which is tucked away in the Matabeleland South bushes makes it a sanctuary which presents an opportunity for the children to learn without any disturbance. He moved to dispel the popular belief that Falcon College focuses more on sports as a number of children have passed with flying colours at the school over the years.
“This is an oasis in the Matabele bush where there are few distractions, we can focus on educating them for the outside world and making an all-round child. I love them to say we are a sporting institution, but that is a myth, our academics are as good as anybody else’s in our country. I obviously compare annually with anybody else in our country and there is no question that we are as good as anybody else academically. This last year, the best A-level student got three As, one of those was an A-star, a good child will always do well at Falcon. Our greatest strength is that we will take a mediocre child and make them good,’’ he said.
With Falcon College having churned out great sportsmen and academics since the private school was established in 1954, the new girls at the school have a legacy to create, which will certainly take a while to achieve.