DSG Old Girls’ TAG

The Old Girls’ Transformation Advisory Group (TAG)

T he Transformation Advisory Group (TAG) was established in June 2020 as a result of some of the forums the school held with Old Girls around racism and discrimination. TAG serves as a body that represents DSG Old Girls’ concerns where transformation and diversity at DSG are concerned.

Tranformation Advisory Group (TAG)

S ee our members below:

Celiwe Thabede

I am a DSG old girl that started in Grade 6 in 2006. I matriculated in 2012 so I was able to experience both the Junior and High School cultures of the school. I had many peers that also started in St Andrew’s Prep and matriculated with me. Through conversations and interactions with students from different ethnic groups as well as my own personal experiences, I have been so aware of the social and racial issues that the school had and continues to have, but felt I was too small a body to have a significant say or impact. Now that I am no longer in the system, I would like to dedicate the time and passion into addressing the issues and being part of the change.

My greatest desire is for children of colour to feel as though they belong in such prestigious schools; to walk with pride knowing that they equally deserve the opportunity provided to them. The objective is not to “not see colour” but to acknowledge and appreciate the different colours that occupy the same space, to treat them fairly and to allow them to prosper and shine within their own rights.

I graduated from the University of Pretoria with a Bachelor of Commerce in Financial Accounting and Economics. I am currently a Financial Manager and I am venturing into Short-Term Insurance. My career focus is largely on leaving a legacy for the generations to come and I feel that passion plays into the generations to come into the DSG Family too. We need to help shape an environment that is safe for all children from all parts of the globe where they feel that they truly are part of a family.

Courtney Koopman

I was fortunate to attend The DSG as an Allan Gray Scholar from 2010 to 2014, making the most of the opportunities at the school. My experience was nuanced, where I was able to experience both immense joy as well as significant marginalisation as a result of my intersectional positionality. This significantly influenced my study path at university, as I went on to pursue a degree in Politics and Governance, with an Honours in Gender and Transformation with special focus on decolonial education and intersectionality. Since matriculating, I've immersed myself in curating artistic engagements of these issues, to teaching, writing and contributing research in order to address challenges that affect the most vulnerable members of society.

With a keen focus on solving problems that affect the intersectional realities of people in her community and the South African community at large, I focus much of my writing, research and teaching around radical justice and inclusivity, narratives of healing through unlearning and relearning history and the decolonial imagining of futures.

My writing, research and creative outputs engages the youth across the spectrum of privilege and disenfranchisement with the aim of sensitising members of the youth to the reality of polarity and what they can do as active agents of change, instead of being complacent by-standers or passive onlookers, particularly those in positions of privilege . This speaks directly to my purpose within the DSG TAG, where I hope to contribute and collaborate with other Old Girls who want to see the school transform into an inclusive, proactive institution.

Now, as an Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Graduate Fellow I am inspired and supported by the incredible network of leaders who want to drive this change across schools nationally.

I’m currently a creative and conceptual resident writer and researcher based in Cape Town, where I work closely within a multi-disciplinary team focused on using design thinking methodology to transform institutions in corporate, government and academia through creative narration and conscious discourse.

Gracie Allanson

I’m an old girl of the class of 2016, and completed my undergrad at UCT in English literature, Linguistics and Media and Writing- these courses have shaped my better and nuanced understanding of post-coloniality, resistance and decolonisation of the world we live- how it functions and why it is so important to be aware of; this has led me to my current path. I am now studying a Post Graduate Certificate in Education in SP/FET phase teaching of English. I am specifically interested in multicultural and anti- bias education practices, as well as creating a teaching and learning space that encourages social awareness and a deeper understanding of justice.

I feel passionate about making the DSG a better place than how I left it, in terms of the schooling and boarding experiences of girls to come. Antiracism is a matter I feel strongly about in all aspects of my life, and I hope and plan to bring a sense of care and understanding on the topic to this space to assist in the journey of transformation and diversity that DSG has and will continue to embark on- , for the sake and protection of the black lives and lives of colour of this community and beyond.

Josie Llewellen Palmer

I joined DSG in high school and matriculated in the class of 2011. After completing my MA (Hons) in Economics and Sociology at Edinburgh University, I moved to London to start my career in finance.

University courses exposed me to the intersectional experience of women and the issues of unconscious bias. These became the lenses through which I viewed my world and the experiences of others around me. London is known to be a largely liberal and diverse community, and grounded by my friendship group I have been increasingly aware of the areas in life where it is not reflective of such. With the awareness comes responsibility and so I have been increasingly educating myself and others about the issues I see persist today, namely sexism and racism. I was nominated on the OG TAG and hope that my desire to make meaningful change in society helps in our collaborative effort to address these issues where it is most impactful, at a school level. While I have no formal qualifications, I am on the committee of the Black network and Women’s network in my firm which I hope brings perspective and assistance.

I am dedicated to be a part of the collective action for systemic change, and believe the most impactful changes start at school level. I hope to help the school become an inclusive and level playing-field for the diverse array of girls who attend, producing the future leaders of society who have self-worth and ambition.

Katy Harrison

I am a 2012 matriculant who spent 7 special years at DSG. I am not blind to the shortfalls of our schools as relates to transformation and diversity and I hope that I can be of use to create change and drive action in these areas

Diversity within schools is something I believe should be commonplace. Schools are the backbone of the development of our youth and an environment that is not accepting and inclusive for all people can do irreparable damage.

I am currently in my final year of CA(SA) articles in Johannesburg and hope that in some way the skills I have learnt can be of use to this advisory role.

I am committed to giving of my time and efforts to help ensure that necessary change occurs, I hope as a team we can achieve this with particular focus on what is best for the girls.

Kim Mathiesen

I am from the class of 1995 and was Head Girl in that year. My formative school years at DSG coincided with a critical time in South Africa’s history. Now, 25 years later, there is real urgency to tackle the systemic racism that has been allowed to persist.

As DSG’s third Old Girl to be awarded the St. Andrew’s College Rhodes Scholarship in 2001, I feel a deep sense of duty as a white woman who has benefitted immeasurably from the school’s colonial legacy, to be an active part of the vital transformation work to make DSG a school where every Black and POC student has the opportunity to thrive and does not experience the trauma of institutional racism.

I bring to the OG TAG my extensive experience of education, teaching and how schools work. I completed my M.Phil thesis on post-apartheid education reform, focusing on South Africa’s language-in-education policy, gained my Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in 2004, and have been an English teacher in large secondary state comprehensive schools in the UK for the past 16 years. I have been a Head of Department for 12 years, leading on curriculum design, pedagogy and curriculum change, and am currently the Teaching and Learning lead teacher, partnering with initial teacher training providers and universities to lead and co-ordinate the training of new teachers across subjects. With this background, I am particularly interested in working with the school on a deep-dive review of curriculum and pedagogy, asking questions about the implicit and explicit curriculum across subjects and years, and pushing an anti-racist agenda around what is prioritised and what is hidden through exclusion and bias.

In my work for the OG TAG, I am guided by my passion for the transformative power of education, and the deep responsibility we hold as educators for the young people in our care.

Kirstin Wilmot

I joined the OG TAG because of the perspective, knowledge and skills I can offer from working in a South African higher education context. I am situated in the Centre for Higher Education Research, Teaching and Learning at Rhodes University as a lecturer and Coordinator of the Higher Education Studies Doctoral Programme. Part of my role is facilitating and researching issues of transformation in higher education, particularly the decolonisation of academic and cultural practices within universities. My own research, focusing primarily on academic literacies, considers how the literacy practices required at university are entrenched in western ways of knowing and being, and that asking students to learn particular ways of writing, reading and thinking is essentially asking them to take on new identities.

After matriculating from DSG in 2005, I completed a BA at Rhodes University before moving to the University of Cape Town to do an Honours and Master’s in sociolinguistics. My MA research focused on accent change in prestigious secondary schools in South Africa. I then pursued a second Master’s in theoretical linguistics at the University of Cambridge. After a few years of working in academic publishing and postgraduate writing development, I moved to the University of Sydney to pursue my PhD in the sociology of higher education, focusing on knowledge-building practices in doctoral dissertations.

I benefitted from a quality Junior Prep and DSG education from the age of six. I am now in a position to give back and use my knowledge and expertise to help make DSG a place that is representative of our country and a place where each girls’ own identity and self-worth is cultivated, supported and celebrated equally.

Ntombekhaya Tisani

The sum total of my schooling experience has been at the ‘family of schools’; from pre-primary and primary at St Andrew’s Prep, to attending Junior School and Senior School at DSG. This experience provides me with a particular insight of the culture(s) of the schools. I am from the class of ‘95 and was Head Daygirl that year. My family continues to live in Makhanda.

The dynamics between the school and community is an area that I’m interested in working on – through the Advisory Group. There has to be deep consideration of what it means for DSG to be situated in that particular community. This has bearing on the Social History of the place; exploring the meaning of ‘Grahamstown’ and that of ‘Makahanda’. Thus providing a context for the school to understand its role in the community. Comitant is the Social Responsibility of being an elite school in one of the poorest areas in the country and with a collapsed municipality. This work dovetails with the curriculum development which is another area that I would like to contribute to. Curriculum is at the centre for teaching/ learning institutions. It is also where the ‘unlearning’ that is necessary for transformation to take effect. Through adjusting the lens to embrace/ celebrate an African perspective. It’s also important to promote critical thinking and allow for new voices to be heard. Lastly, my experience in leading Employment Equity committees (through my corporate career), has provided an understanding of the process/ practice of building greater diversity in the staff. This will be valuable in supporting the school in developing better racial representation of staff.

Currently, I run a Strategy and Marketing Communications consultancy. My experience in these domains; particularly working on business transformation projects, is valuable here.

Systemic racism has been left unchecked at DSG; I’m horrified that young girls are still subjected to this violence. Therefore, I am committed to working with the school and building an anti-racism culture, where girls can thrive to be, not only strong and modern; but conscious and compassionate as well.

Sandulela Asanda Biyana

Much like my peers, I feel that there is a need for past students to be involved in the transformation of the school and spaces that we have spent a large chunk of our lives in. As an old girl, I can speak to the nuances of policy implementation, how the school culture is presented and maintained and how this affects the old girls. These are issues that I have engaged with in my position as Head of Transformation of the Black Law Students’ Forum, as well as in my background with behavioural and development economics.

I am currently a filmmaker based in Cape Town, and currently hold a BCom in Economics with Law, BCom(Hons) in Economics from and a BA(Hons) in Filmmaking. The throughline in all the work and knowledge that I have experienced is the particular focus on people, identity and representation. As a filmmaker, I am particularly concerned with the questions of representation and identity building of black women in South Africa and the world. This is informed by my own experiences in my youth, including my high school years at DSG.

My experience, knowledge and skills have made it clear to me that social changes crucial to creating an environment where differences are acknowledged, respected and nurtured. This has been the biggest motivator for my involvement with the OG TAG. I believe that this group can enable change and provide a pillar of support for the DSG girls of the future and provide closure for the girls of the past whose experiences have been tainted by past experiences at the school. Myself included.

Sisipho Mafanya

I was a DSG girl from 2002 to 2008, starting off in the Junior School (Greystone) and then moving into Espin House for Senior School. I would describe my journey at DSG as amazing but somewhat contrasted by layered experiences of not belonging. The more years I spent at the school the easier it was to identify the subtle but often not too subtle racial and social discrimination. From a young girl’s perspective who had to adapt quickly to a place I had to call’ home’ for 7 years, I see value in creating an environment which accommodates all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

I was officially a DSG Girl from 2002 but my family’s affiliation with the school started in 1989 when my first-born brother went to St Andrews Prep (prior to my birth). I was the fourth child to attend the ‘three schools’ and it is this 20-year relationship that sparked my interest of being part of the DSG Transformation and Diversity Advisory Group. Based on my experience of the school, most recent conversations with my fellow OG and OA family and friends there is certainly a need for change. This isn’t a newly identified need for change, but I hope I can be part of the group that enables implementation.

I believe I can assist stakeholders within the DSG environment such as the Junior School by providing perspective and insights on how to create an inclusive environment for young girls. I would like to also see confident young girls with sense of identity from all backgrounds when the next generation of girls leave the school.

I graduated from the University of Cape Town with a Bachelor of Business Science in Finance in 2015. I am an Investment professional at a Global Investment Manager providing client driven solutions for the Africa Market.

Yolisa Dambuza

I am a proud DSG old girl who has fond and not-so-fond memories of the time I spend at the school. The education and experiences I received from both DSG and SAC have been invaluable. I grew and developed strong opinions whilst at DSG and I learnt that it was ok to share them. I also made lifelong friendships that are still strong today.

However, all of these experiences took place in an environment where racism also existed. It is encouraging to me that DSG (and SAC) are prepared to tackle the issue of racism in a meaningful and impactful way. I believe that by addressing and dealing with racism, the school will not only be an even better learning institution but will also create an environment where all the girls get the full benefit of the DSG experience. I hope to add value to the advisory group through the experience I have gained from sitting in diversity and transformation committees at various organisations that I have worked for as well as from my life experience as a black woman.

I have been working for the past 22 years in various organisation. My work experience has been in the finance field. For the past 6 years, I have been working as an executive manager for finance and corporate services for a company which is based Johannesburg.

I am confident that the time devoted to the transformation process at DSG will have positive and lasting results.