Missionary Education Heritage

“Located at the end of a winding road overlooking a verdant valley, Healdtown was far more beautiful and impressive than Clarkebury. It was, at the time, the largest African school south of the equator, with more than a thousand learners, both male and female. Its gracefully ivory colonial buildings and tree-shaded courtyards gave it a feeling of a privileged academic oasis, which is exactly what it was.” Nelson Mandela - Long Walk to Freedom.

 

Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe was born on 5 December 1924 in Graaff-Reinet, a small town in the Eastern Cape known as the gem of the Karoo. He was the youngest of six children and, as was normal at the time, he was given an English name (Robert) as well as a Xhosa name, Mangaliso, meaning ‘it is wonderful’. His brothers who survived were Ernest, born in 1914, and Charles, born in 1922. His only sister was Eleanor.

My five older siblings had all been to missionary schools and turned out exceptionally well. My parents probably chose Inanda because of the school’s reputation and the fact that family friends had sent their children there, so I would have older friends to look after me.

 

Enoch Mankayi Sontonga was born in Uitenhage, Eastern Province (now Eastern Cape) around 1873 as a member of the Xhosa-speaking Mpinga clan of the Tembu tribe. He trained as a teacher at the Lovedale Mission Training College, after which he was sent to a Methodist mission school (unnamed) in Nancefield, near Johannesburg in 1896. He taught here for nearly eight years.

"For young black South Africans like myself," Nelson Mandela wrote in his autobiography, "it was Oxford and Cambridge, Harvard and Yale all rolled into one." Of the hundreds of pages in Long Walk To Freedom, barely a dozen recount Mandela's days at Fort Hare University. Understandably so. He spent less than two years of his 94 years as a student there.

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