Southern Africa’s first multiracial school celebrates 50 triumphant years
Waterford school in Swaziland reflects on its historic role with a series of parades and tributes from students old and new.
Russell Palmer, a journalist from South Africa, described it as like landing on another planet, a feeling of having suddenly arrived in an environment so different from what he has known that there is overwhelming bewilderment. The place was Waterford school, just 14 miles across the border in Swaziland, but a brave new world in its attitude to race.
The first multiracial school in southern Africa was born in direct opposition to the apartheid regime, which branded it “sick” and “unnatural”, and became a haven for the children of struggle leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu and Desmond Tutu. On Saturday it celebrated its 50th anniversary with colourful parades, performances and reflections on its courageous role in the continent’s history.
“We were here during the era of apartheid and this school was an absolute beacon of what was to come,” former student Amanda West, a last-minute replacement for Tutu as guest speaker after he withdrew due to illness, told a gathering of alumni, donors and teachers past and present. “As a student population we were wildly involved in the politics … This is an astounding place.”
Eighty-six nationalities have studied there over the years and most were represented in a sports field parade featuring students in national dress and speaking national languages. Although it ran the gamut from Angola to Zimbabwe, the biggest cheer was reserved for the Swazi delegation.