Michael Goncalves is Jeppe’s second Springbok Scout in two years, following up on Michael Westhoff, who achieved the honour last year.
The Springbok Scout award is the highest award that a member of the Scout movement can achieve in South Africa. It is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do – fewer than 1% of scouts qualify for the award.
That Michael had to do it under the restrictions that have been imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic made it even more of an achievement, according to James Cottrell, Troop Scouter at the 1st Bedfordview Scout Troop where Michael is a member.
“The planning that had to go into his tasks and activities was much increased,” Cottrell said, “and he often had to think on his feet because the regulations have changed so often during the last year.”
The requirement to be eligible for Springbok Scout status have to be met before the scout turns 18, so there’s a deadline and the Covid restriction put that under pressure. Among other things, Michael had to organise and run a five-day camp for the troop, he had to do 40 hours of community service and he had to complete a permanent construction project that will benefit the community.
His camp was in the Drakensberg and, according to Cottrell, he handled it very well. “He showed great leadership and managed to get the younger scouts, and their parents, on board to make it a success.”
His community service involved refurbishing the Scouts facilities at Homestead Dam in Benoni and for his construction project he rebuilt a rickety wooden bridge at the dam, making it safe for the public to use.
“I have been in the scouts since I was seven years old,” Michael said, “and it has been quite a journey. I learnt so much about myself, about leading other people and how to overcome difficulties. Those are qualities that I have found useful at school and which will serve me well later in my life.”
Michael is a school prefect and before the lockdown he was in the rowing 1st eight. He has also played rugby throughout his time at Jeppe.
“My strongest impression of Michael has been his ability to innovate,” James Cottrell said. “he has achieved our highest honour under the most difficult of circumstances. His excellent communication skills and his natural leadership ability will take him far in life.”
Michael concluded by saying that scouting has changed in his time as young people look for different things. “The emphasis is not so much on the physical aspects anymore, but it’s still about taking you out of your comfort zone and getting you to experience things that the average teenager does not. That’s when you discover what you are capable of and that’s a very valuable thing.”