Adams College


  1. American Board of Missions
  2. Adams College founded
  3. Alumni
  4. Bantu Education Act of 1953

American Board of Missions

Adams College’s CrestDr Newton Adams, under the auspices of the American Board of Missions, established a school in the catchment area of the Amanzimtoti River south of Durban, that that would eventually be known as Adams College. RK Myeza, a former student of Adams College and an historian on early missions writes: “The American Board of Zulu Mission (as it became known) failed to make Zulus Americans and also failed to make them Christians, but succeeded to inspire them to reach higher levels of education beyond their bench mark of elementary and primary schools.”

The American Board missionaries, Newton Adams, Aldin Grout and George Champion, who were assigned to work among the Zulu people, arrived in the area in 1835. Within months they had paid a visit to King Dingane, despite being told by their Board not to do so. A short while later they were assigned a piece of land to establish a mission that was called Nginani, meaning “I am with you”. Champion was stationed at Nginani, Grout opened a mission in what would become known as Groutville, and Adams worked in the Umlazi area and further down the coast.

Within three months Adams opened what would became known as a “family school” in March 1836, gathering adults and children from the vicinity onto the mission station. Mbalasi, the widowed wife of Chief Duze Ka Mnengwa KaKhondlo, who was killed during the Shaka wars of supremacy, and her eight-year-old son Nembula, became part of the Adams household. She also became a formative influence in extending Adam’s educational work in the area.

Adams College founded

In 1847 Adams decided to move to Amanzimtoti. He built a school at KwaSheleni, named after a Mr Shilling who settled in the area in 1846. In time it consisted of a high school, and industrial school and a teachers’ training college. Severally called the Amanzimtoti Boys Seminary and the Amanzimtoti Institute, it was named Adams College under the tenure of Dr Edgar Brookes who became principal of the school in 1934. The Bantu Education Act in 1953 saw the college renamed Amanzimtoti Zulu Training School, with the teacher training facility being discontinued. When the Act was repealed the college was renamed Adams College.


The school has a proud history, having produced people like the Rev. John Dube who would go on to be the first President of the ANC. He was also the founding editor of Ilanga lase Natal and he established the Ohlange High School in 1901. Others included Dr ZK Matthews, Inkosi Albert Luthuli, Anthony Lembede, Epainette Moerane (President Mbeki’s mother), Joshua Nkomo, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Judge Pius Langa, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi and many others. Dr ZK Matthews became the first black head of the school in 1925, Inkosi Albert Luthuli taught isiZulu and Music at the school and Govan Mbeki was also a teacher there.

Bantu Education Act of 1953

Adams College, like so many great schools of the apartheid era, suffered the impact of exclusion and racism. “The Bantu Education Act was probably the single most horrific piece of legislation to have passed through the apartheid parliament,” says Desmond Makhanya, an Adams alumnus and descendent of the Amanzimtoti chief, Makhuta Makhanya. African schools were taken over by the Government, with the deterioration in the quality of teaching, facilities and curricula causing a huge outcry from teachers and students. Some of the original and early buildings were torn down during the apartheid period; others were left and are now in dire need of restoration. The grounds have been neglected, educational resources are limited, extramural activities are lacking and class sizes are too large. The good news however, is that in 2007 the school achieved a 93% Matric pass rate.


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