The new senior house master and head of house for Tsessebe is Mr Prince Mhlanga. He will be taking over from Mr Dave Hansen who is stepping down and becoming a regular teacher at the school.
“I’m super-excited, although a bit overwhelmed, at the prospect and can’t wait to get started,” he said. “It’s been my goal since I started working in the hostel to eventually run it and I’m grateful for the confidence that has been shown in me.”
Mr Mhlanga is a Jeppe old boy, He attended the school from 2003 to 2007 but was a day boy. “I remember thinking, even then, that the boarders were the backbone of the school and Tsessebe was by far the best of the houses,” he said. He played 1st team rugby as a centre for two years and represented the Golden Lions in his matric year.After a few years at UJ, he changed to studying teaching through Unisa and came to Jeppe as an intern and junior hostel master in 2012. “I was put into Tsessebe where I was fortunate to have Mr Dudley Wallendorf take me under his wing and mentor me. His passion for the hostel and the affection he had for the boys was evident and it definitely rubbed off on me,” he said. “My views on how to manage boys in a hostel were shaped then and they haven’t changed much since.
“Mr Hansen then took over and he has been my mentor, I believe he has been preparing me for this role and I will always be grateful to him.
”Things are, however, different now and Covid-19 has changed things even further, and philosophy of boarding has changed over the years. “The boarding house has to be a home away from home for the boys. Teenagers have changed over the years, they are more expressive and unwilling to be dictated to. Our approach has to be to let them discover themselves outside of the home environment. We can’t expect them to blindly conform to everything, but we do need to help them to be resilient and to adapt,” Mr Mhlanga said.
The hostel is not supposed to be a boot camp, it’s an institution that will contribute to who you will become. “You will forge lifelong relationships and create ever-lasting memories,” Mr Mhlanga said. “Boys don’t need to be man-managed. They all come from different backgrounds and upbringing and our job is to create the space and opportunity for them to grow into what they want to be rather than forcing them to be what we want. In the end it’s about helping them to become better versions of themselves.”
He does have ideas and a plan for the future, but he will be taking it slow. “Mr Wallendorf and Mr Hansen have got Tsessebe operating smoothly and there’s no point in rushing in and changing things. I will be taking something from both of them and, hopefully, adding my twist, all with the aim of making it a better place.”
Mr Mhlanga’s experience – he was just 23 when he started at Tsessebe – will, he believes, be useful when it comes to leading the hostel staff. “Many of our hostel masters are young old boys and that’s a good thing because the boys can relate to them and they are full of passion and energy. At the same time, however, you need to balance that with experienced people who bring calm heads and wisdom,” he said.
“I am lucky to have so many experienced old hands to guide me on this new path. Mr Hillock as the new head of boarding, Mr Bechet who will still be in Tsessebe a boarding master and Mr Murison our deputy principal in charge of pastoral care, are all people I can call on. And Mr Hansen has agreed to carry on mentoring me.
There’s a saying at Jeppe that you should work towards leaving it a better place for your being there. That’s what I hope to do at Tsessebe House,” Mr Mhlanga concluded.