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About the HSRP


The Historic Schools Restoration Project (HSRP) reflects both the tragedy and hope of education in South Africa. The tragedy is the imposition of the Bantu Education Act of 1953 that resulted in the destruction of mission school education across the country. The hope is found in several educational renewal projects that are taking place in primary, secondary and higher education institutions.

This introduces you to nine historic schools that are included in the first phase of a project designed to restore historic schools in various parts of the country. These schools all contributed richly to black education prior to the negative impact of Bantu Education.

The aim is to empower these schools to achieve a high level of excellence in teaching and learning. The project also seeks to reclaim the memory, history and physical infrastructure of the historic sites that constitute the school buildings. This will become an inspiration to the schools concerned and to the communities within which they are located.

The project has been endorsed by the government of South Africa and is supported by the Departments of Arts and Culture, Education, and Science and Technology. Initial funding for the project was provided by the Department of Arts and Culture. We also appeal to the private sector, philanthropic organisations, and agencies in the international community, as well as the alumni of the schools, to support this project. It clearly constitutes an essential building-block in the promotion of education and skills training that is essential to the future growth of South Africa and its neighbouring countries.

Please be in touch with my office if you require any further information – I shall count it a privilege to speak with you about ways in which you can become involved in the project. God bless you and thank you for your interest.

Njongonkulu Ndungane
Executive Director, HSRP


The HSRP is striving for the creation of sustainable schools of excellence at educational sites of historical significance. These will lead the way for real comprehensive educational transformation in our country.

Here is an opportunity for us to abandon the colonial constraints that our history seems to have imposed on our educational thinking. We must develop specific values-driven schools as a national priority. We must ensure that an appropriate and cost-effective child-centred service mix is developed for each school. Continuous improvement must become a commitment within each school.

We must therefore devote our efforts to planning and embracing the notion of the school as the extended or second family. This requires a complete review of systems of management, discipline and control within schools and the implementation of fearless positive approaches and principle-driven empowering strategies.

For this to be achieved all stakeholders must be active, open and willing participants in the school transformation process. This requires a costly commitment by everyone involved. The potential outcomes could provide a firm foundation for renaissance in Africa. The HSRP is ready to facilitate and be part of this endeavour.

Initiating the First Phase

There are over fifty historic schools in the country. To ensure the viability of the project and delivery on the proposed objectives it is, however, necessary to limit the initial phase of the project to a manageable number of schools. Nine rural or semi-rural schools have been chosen, eight of which were founded during the 19th century. These schools were ranked among the leading black schools in the country. It is envisaged that success in these schools will result in their becoming exemplars for what other rural schools can achieve. The focus is on historic schools that offer tuition from Grade 8 through to Grade 12.

The alumni of these schools include South Africa’s first democratically-elected president, Nelson Mandela, the first two presidents of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama and Sir Ketumile Masire, as well as Dr Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique. Other alumni include Govan Mbeki, Ellen Kuzwayo, Joshua Nkomo, Wendy Luhabe, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Judge Pius Langa, Baleka Mbete, Ruth Mompati and Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. Also included are prominent leaders in business, academia, the arts, faith communities and organisations of civil society.

Many of the historic schools have been declared heritage sites, while others are eligible for this status. Most of the original buildings of these schools – almost all in need of complete restoration – date back to the 19th century and constitute a rich heritage that waits to be reclaimed. This, together with the history of these schools and the success stories of their alumni, needs to be capitalised on and celebrated as a basis for promoting pride among current learners who in many instances need role models to lift them above their present circumstances.

Defining focus and transformation

The restoration process will require a level of transformation that in many cases necessitates a shift in school culture and the emergence of a new understanding of school identity. This is to ensure that in each school a learning culture is established in which learners achieve excellent academic results, moral and social maturation, and a capacity to play leadership roles in society.

This development needs necessarily to include a focus on the moral and social ethos of the school, with attention being given to the teaching and affirmation of ethical values from the perspective of the African understanding of ubuntu and the common values encapsulated in the major religions practised in the country. These values need to be incorporated through the Life Orientation curriculum and the teaching of other subjects. They need also to be reflected in school structures as well as in the persons of the principal, educators, learners, administrators and support staff.

For the holistic restoration of the historic schools to be realised, a clear focus on seven interrelated areas is needed:

  • Teaching and learning
  • Identity and belonging
  • Maturation and empowerment
  • Transformation and vision
  • Historic memory and memorialisation
  • A supportive infrastructure
  • A secure physical environment

Establishing a new model of governance

It is proposed that a third school governance model be established to enable the HSRP to meet its objectives, namely the development of a contemporary version of the State-Aided School. It requires government’s full support and maximum funding, augmented by the private sector and other sources, including school alumni. As such, the model needs to allow for full management autonomy to ensure that the schools flourish, while allowing for reciprocal accountability to all stakeholders and government.

The process of revitalisation must involve the commitment of the school at all levels of management and a clearly-defined course of action to take the school into the future. A failure to demonstrate this level of commitment and planning will result in the exclusion of the school from the project.

The achievement of academic excellence, cultural pride and social cohesion in the nation depends heavily on the foundations laid at school and in the homes and communities of learners. Models of such achievement can be the “yeast” to stimulate growth and development within the education sector.

Model building within the education framework requires partnerships across a wide front. The Historic Schools Restoration Project is well positioned to make a significant impact on education in South Africa. The need for understanding this responsibility and working with integrity in order to optimise this opportunity has not been greater at any point in our history.

Archbishop Njongo Ndungane
Executive Director, HSRP

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