[Expats in Beijing] South African principal and traditional Chinese culture

2017-09-22 15:59 千龙网

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Rising at half past four in the morning, Malcolm McKenzie arrives at office at a quarter past five, and then work for two hours before he is engaged in the daily routine work. After work, he would consider about the development of the school and the educational experience gained, and write papers and diary. That’s the daily life of McKenzie. As the principal of Beijing Keystone Academy, he always lives a disciplined life. “I don’t use WeChat or other social media for I don’t want to be distracted.”

Born and raised in Cape Town in South Africa, McKenzie got his master’s degrees in English and applied linguistics from Oxford University and Lancaster University respectively. He worked as principal in Maru-a-Pula Middle School in Botswana, UWC Atlantic College in Wales and the Hotchkiss School, a celebrated private high school in the US, successively. “Four years ago, I was invited to Beijing to found Keystone Academy. I was glad with the invitation for I love the rich history and culture of this capital city,” McKenzie recalled.

McKenzie, principal of Beijing Keystone Academy. [Photo provided to Qianlong]

Cultivating students’ love for Chinese history and culture also becomes a mission of Keystone Academy. “We hope our students can master fluent Chinese and English, develop an independent character and build a strong sense of community within a boarding system. The most important is to nurture their love for Chinese culture and a sense of identity and belonging as Chinese, which is connected to the world rather than being isolated,” McKenzie remarked.

Entering McKenzie’s office, one finds five striking Chinese characters “ren” (benevolence), “yi” (righteousness), “li” (manners), “zhi” (wisdom), and “xin” (credit) together with their English translation on the wall. “The five virtues are the common values we want our teachers and students to stick to. Although they come from traditional Chinese culture, I think they should be embraced by the rest of the world,” McKenzie expressed.

Not long after McKenzie came to Beijing, he and his wife started from Qianmen, walked around the Tiananmen Square, passed through the Forbidden City, climbed Jingshan, strolled in Beihai Park, wandered about Houhai and went along Gulou Dongdajie before finally arriving at Yonghe Lama Temple. They went over the oldest downtown area of Beijing in more than seven hours on foot.

“I dare not say that I totally understand the meaning of the five characters. But I would do things most Chinese will probably never do and notice the things neglected by them,” McKenzie noted. Even now he prefers to travel by subway rather than by car. “You can only see Beijing through a small window in a car but you are part of the urban life of this city in subway.”

Observing while trying to be an insider helps McKenzie understand Chinese culture and fulfill his mission better.

“I see this country once home to ancient civilization is reshaping itself and building a modern state. The country is vigorous and ambitious, and I can feel this from the working state of our Chinese staff who are optimistic and love the collective and the school,” said McKenzie.

Half of the teachers and most of the students in Keystone Academy are Chinese. McKenzie would take a walk on campus and have a word with the teachers and students he meets despite a busy schedule. “I would like to learn about and accept new things with an open mind. I hope to accomplish my mission well in the following years before I retire,” he said.

McKenzie, principal of Beijing Keystone Academy. [Photo provided to Qianlong]

责任编辑:Lu Qing(QN0047)  作者:Dai Qi

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