educationPhoto Michael NefdtOur readers will know from past postings, that we’ve been working very hard on a vision for the establishment of a Management School Of Excellence at Summerhill, largely aimed at our previously disadvantaged community. Remarkably, for an industry the size of racing world-wide, there is only one degree in horse management in the world, and that is at the University of Kentucky, USA. There are of course numerous institutions in several of the major countries which provide diplomas through Technikons and the like, and South Africa has such a course at the Pretoria Technikon. However, all of these courses are in the nature of undergraduate studies, and are aimed largely at school graduates rather than people entering management.

Some years ago, Sheikh Mohammed, the current ruler of Dubai inaugurated the Darley Flying Start course, which is now internationally renowned for the opportunities it offers its recruits. These people are drawn largely from the ranks of people holding previous degrees, and it is serving a vital function, albeit for a very small group of people, given the context of a global industry the size of racing. With this in mind, Summerhill has long held the dream of developing a course which might generously be described as the “poor man’s” Darley Flying Start, and we’ve been in liaison for a long time with Stephen Gill, former financial director to the late Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Maktoum al Maktoum.

Stephen has been a driving force behind the establishment of a trust aimed at these very ambitions, and he has worked tirelessly in his efforts to gain acknowledgement for the needs of our local people. A while ago, the Darley South Africa Trust was created, and we’ve been waiting expectantly for the word as to what was to become of the monies in trust. Lengthy proposals have been sent to and fro between here, the UK and Dubai, and when we visited the UK in December, we received the first indication that the affairs of the trust might be transferred to the control of Sheikh Hamdan’s Shadwelloperation.

This suggestion sat well with us, as we have an 18 year old association with Shadwell, they operate extremely efficiently, and understand South Africa.

Yesterday, we received the final go ahead from Sheikh Hamdan’s Financial Director, Chris Kennard, who has been at the helm of the financial affairs of Shadwell ever since we’ve known them. Gratifyingly, Sheikh Hamdan’s righthand man, Mirza al Sayegh, has agreed to join the board of trustees. He carries great weight and his influence is carried far and wide.

This is a significant boost for the education of our previously disadvantaged people, and the decision has been received with wide acclaim in every segment of our community and government, the racing authorities, the Keeneland Association, which is involved in the accreditation of the course, our own educational institutions including the Jockey Academy, and especially here at Summerhill. We cannot think of a greater day in our history, as this signals the day our people get the opportunities they so badly need.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done, however, as it’s essential to the future of the school that the first intake of candidates make a success of their course. This will entail the recruitment of the best educators, the provision of a top class facility, the development of a meaningful curriculum, and as important as anything, a selection process aimed at finding the best possible candidates. In the end, what is important here, is that the school graduates make a success of their careers once they’ve left, and that they’re placed in positions where they’re given the opportunity to perform at the top of their powers.

There will be a good deal of information on the school as we get towards the end of the year and our plans crystalise, but in the meantime, write this date down – we won’t forget it, and we’re deeply grateful to all of those that have lent their support to this cause.

Posted by Mick Goss

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