Nelson Mandela’s former bodyguard was the guest speaker at Portsmouth High School’s awards evening.
Chris Lubbe, who worked with Mr Mandela until his retirement in 1998, gave a speech and presented achievement awards to girls from Years 10 to 13.
Mr Lubbe now lives in Hampshire and is a Unicef ambassador championing children’s rights. He said: ‘We have an old African proverb that says “When you educate a man you educate an individual, but when you educate a girl you educate a society”.
‘But yet according to the UN, nearly 775m adults are illiterate; two-thirds of them women, making gender equality even harder to achieve.
‘The scale of illiteracy among youth also represents an enormous challenge; an estimated 122m youth globally are illiterate, of which young women represent 60.7 per cent.
‘Educating girls has to be our number one priority in the world today.’
One of the prize winners was Adele O’Callaghan, 18, who received the Shepherd Prize for chemistry after getting three As and a B in her A-levels this summer.
She said: ‘My grandfather worked in chemistry so I have always wanted to follow in his footsteps. It’s been my favourite subject for years and I am going to Bath to read chemical engineering.’
Headmistress Jane Prescott said in her address: ‘Education is not just about examination results and prizes – it’s about the way schools help young people prepare for the world and use their minds to pursue a meaningful and good life. I am extremely proud of the pupils in this school and the young women they become is, in part, testament to the guidance they receive from their parents, teachers and families as they navigate the choppy waters of adolescence.’