This thesis presents an alternative history of a non-mainstream case of resistance to apartheid by exploring the institutional response of a multiracial school in exile, Waterford Kamhlaba, established in 1963, in the Kingdom of Swaziland. With apartheid policy attacking the core of life of South Africans, and particularly educational opportunities for blacks, a group of expatriate teachers decided to fight the system by establishing an educational initiative based on multiracial and human rights. Led by Michael Stern, an expatriate British educator, the group left South Africa and crossed into the Kingdom of Swaziland where they established the first multiracial school in Africa, Waterford Kamhlaba. With a committed and liberal-minded staff, the school became a forerunner to the new South African dispensation that anti-apartheid activists were fighting for.
Starting with an analysis of apartheid education policy, the thesis proceeds to look into the establishment of the school, its growth, the curriculum it offered and the ways in which it sought to project itself as a bastion of anti-apartheid resistance, before remodelling itself as part of a global education movement. The thesis draws its findings from a relatively rich collection of evidence including school magazines, newsletters, annual school reports, photographs, and interviews, published and unpublished books.
The main argument of this work is that, as one of the first multiracial schools in Africa, Waterford Kamhlaba was not a typical institution; among other things, it illustrates that, for all its past and current ambiguities, liberalism3 was at some point in history the most progressive force of its time-and it overlapped with and aided radical mass-nationalism.
This history of Waterford seeks to widen the narrative of the popular ANC/UmMkonto We Sizwe exile story, as well as the equally dominant story of the Western based anti-apartheid movements. The thesis is, therefore, an attempt to widen the “exile” historiography of apartheid resistance. Waterford also acted as a transitional model from the old type colonial missionary schooling to a new type of schooling founded through missionary labour but functioning through multi-racial human rights.