During the apartheid years, Inanda Seminary was one of the few schools where black South African students could gain a high quality education
If you want your faith in the human race restored, take a trip out to see the Inanda Seminary, a special feel good school which will put a smile on your face.
This excellent school has a proud and fascinating 150- year history and is housed in graceful old buildings in manicured gardens among towering trees. The Inanda Seminary offers a superb, well-rounded education to South African girls in the heart of an impoverished peri-urban community.
During the apartheid years, Inanda Seminary was one of the few schools where black South African students could gain a high quality education, and it is therefore no surprise that it produced some of South Africa’s women leaders in business, politics and other areas. And today this highly sought-after school still offers its student body a schooling that underpins academic excellence with solid values and a varied curriculum that exposes its learners to sport, art, music, literature and community service.
The Inanda Seminary was established in 1869 by missionaries of the American Congregational Church. The first principal, Mary Edwards, came from Durban harbour by ox-wagon, bringing all of her worldly belongings in a large chest that is still on display in the school’s beautifully- curated archives. Her diary of the time describes what, from a 21st century perspective, was an often hilarious interplay of cultures between strict Christian Victorian standards and the traditional lifestyle of the local rural communities. Somehow, over the decades, the school has managed to build a strong organisational culture that straddled these divides.
One of the many endearing stories from Inanda Seminary’s long history is how Nelson Mandela helped save the school in the 1990s, when it faced closure after the Congregational Church had withdrawn its support. The school’s loyal old girls body, or ‘Members’ as they call themselves, approached the then President Mandela in an effort to save the school. And in his inimitable fashion, Mandela invited the chairman of the paper company Sappi for tea and convinced the company to invest in the school.
Judy Tate, the current principal of Inanda Seminary, joined the school about a decade ago, at a time when the school still faced great financial difficulties. With remarkable dedication, she has turned the situation around and today the school is financially secure and a true centre of excellence in a country and province where education is in shatters.
If you visit Inanda Seminary, informative tour guide Ayanda Ncobo colourfully highlights he school’s fascinating history. And, if you happen to arrive when school is out, you could be treated to a tour by one of the friendly schoolgirls, who are always eager to show off their very special place of learning.