Merrifield College has embraced the challenge of The President’s Award Programme.
The President’s Award, originally launched in South Africa as the Gold Shield Award and rebranded in 1994 with the late Nelson Mandela as the founding Patron-in-Chief, is a distinguished programme that has been challenging and developing young people for over 30 years. Merrifield College, which has actively participated in the scheme since 2007, upholds the tradition of embracing this prestigious challenge, fostering initiative and perseverance among its students.
Participants are required to demonstrate consistent progress and commitment in three key areas: skills, physical development, and service, over a duration ranging from 3 months to a year. Skills can be as diverse as chess, Further Studies Maths, or debating, while physical development might involve activities such as netball or cross-country. Service often includes contributing time and effort to non-governmental organisations or local community projects.
The culmination of the programme is the Adventurous Journey, designed to test the students’ abilities through a demanding excursion. This year, with enrolments of 4 Bronze, 8 Silver, and 1 Gold, our journey led us to Cefani on the East Coast. The young adventurers engaged in hiking, paddling, and honing vital skills like fire-building and first aid. The journey’s zenith was undoubtedly the communal meal prepared on the beach, following a 2-hour hike—a fitting tribute to the programme’s aim of navigating the transition from adolescence to adulthood through balanced challenges.
Reflecting on past achievements, Merrifield notably hosted the Eastern Cape Youth Forum in 2013, with 150 participants engaging in deliberations, highlighted by an address from Minister Trevor Manuel. In 2021, a dedicated group ventured to Wriggleswade Dam to complete their Adventurous Journey, fulfilling the rigorous Gold Criterion—a testament to the programme’s enduring commitment to equipping youth with essential life skills.