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Sports Innovation takes centre stage at annual Principals' Function

- Wits University

Representatives from Gauteng feeder schools recently attended Wits University's annual Principals’ Function to recognise outstanding school principals.

Professor Jon Patricios

Numerous high-achieving students at Wits University hail from renowned feeder schools known for producing exceptional graduates who seamlessly adapt to the University's academic rigors.

Professor Jon Patricios, director of the Waterfall Sports Orthopaedic Surgery, where he spearheads the renowned Wits Sport and Health (WiSH) Research Group, delivered the keynote address to provide insights into cutting-edge sports medicine advancements and strategies.

“The feeder schools of this University and many others in the country are among the best in the world, and that’s largely due to the leadership that you provide, I applaud you for your excellence,” said Patricios during his address acknowledging the good work that Gauteng principals do in preparing their students for University.

Last year's Principals' Function theme reflected on the introduction of Artificial Intelligence in Education and the role of Chat GPT; while this year's theme focused on ‘Sports Science’. The change in theme underscores the University's commitment to promoting wellness, sports, and a balanced student life.

Patricios provided insight into WiSH, which aims to enhance the lives of athletes and communities by offering sport and exercise medicine programmes, sourced from high calibre, internationally-recognised training programmes, to facilitate peak performance and rehabilitation.

“The ongoing research that drives what we do says exercise is medicine, in the field that I work in shows that physical inactivity is a major risk factor for diseases, particularly cardiovascular disease,” he said.

He also introduced esteemed guests to the envisaged state-of-the-art Wits Brian and Dorothy Zylstra Sports Complex, which promises world-class research and therapeutic facilities, an aquatics centre and a residence for elite athletes. This facility is expected to be complete in 2026 and was made possible by a R250 million legacy investment from the Zylstra family and the Skye Foundation.

"This Complex represents a monumental development that will revolutionise sports science in the Johannesburg area, benefiting the educational belt from University of Johannesburg through Wits, to the Houston precinct and Nelson Mandela bridge, extending its impact to Gauteng schools as well," said Patricios.

This annual event is coordinated by members of the Schools Liaison Office (SLO), who work closely with both traditional feeder schools and new schools to identify learners with potential.

Sershin Naicker, manager of student recruitment at the School’s Laison’s Office, closed the ceremony with a vote of thanks to all those in attendance. "It is important for us as a University to forge relationships with our local schools at a senior level to try to enhance the quality of education at these schools and enhance the admission prospects of local students. It is part relationship building, part networking, and part information sharing. It is also a platform for us to congratulate schools and principals on the good work they are doing in preparing learners for post-secondary education and helping them get into Wits,” said Naicker.

Wits University’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Zeblon Vilakazi, handed out certificates to the top two schools from Quintiles 4-6 and the top school from Quintiles 1-3 during the Principal’s event.

Sybil Bhagwan, Headmistress of Jeppe High School for Girls and one of the recipients of the certificates of excellence shared light on how they prepare their learners for post-secondary learning.

“This recognition by Wits spurs us on to continue producing young women who enter this arena with the skills they need. We are proud to continue feeding into what the University believes in, which resonates with our belief in excellence,” said Bhagwan, expressing her gratitude for the award.

“We recruit learners into a very specific basket that we offer, which is academic, sports, and cultural excellence. We have a great alumnae support network as well. Many of the things that Professor Patricios spoke about during his speech resonate with how our school runs and operates,” said Bhagwan.

Principal Angie Mokoti of Raymond Mhlaba School of Specialisation, also accepted the certificate after being announced as a top two feeder from Quintiles 4-6.

“I am very excited. These are the results of ensuring that there’s academic excellence in our school,” said Mokoti.

Additionally, St John's College received the top feeder school at Wits from Quintiles 1-3.

The SLO will continue to visit schools, attend career fairs, and make Wits the first choice for learners across the country.