Inanda Seminary

Inanda Seminary, founded by the American Board of Missions (ABM) in 1869 forms an integral part of the history of Inanda. Situated 25 kilometres north west of Durban, it became the first secondary school exclusively for African girls in southern Africa. Its reputation grew rapidly and the school soon attracted students from across the continent.

The Rev. Daniel Lindley and his wife, Lucy, came to South Africa in 1835, as one of six couples sent by the ABM to start mission work in the country. Working at first in what is today the North-West Province, the Lindleys joined the Grout and Champion families who had opened ABM stations in Natal. By 1847 the Lindleys had established themselves near Chief Mqhawe’s kraal in the Inanda area to work among the Ngcobo people who had been dispossessed of their land and threatened with massacre by King Dingane’s impis. Other Zulu clans also moved into the area and were settled in “reserves” that extended from the Thukela River in the north to the Umzimkhulu River in the south under the protection of the colonial government.

Daniel and Lucy Lindley and their 11 children moved onto the Inanda Mission in 1858. The mission house, still standing and currently used as the Seminary’s general office, was built by Daniel Lindley with home-burned bricks. In 1869 they opened a school to train girls to be teachers and “good wives” for the young men being trained at Adams College in Amanzimtoti. The AMB voted 50 pounds to the project and Inanda Seminary opened as a boarding school with 19 girls being admitted initially. Mary Kelly Edwards, a 40-year-old widow from Ohio, was appointed as the first principal of the Inanda Seminary, continuing her association with the school until she died at the age of ninety-eight. Early teachers at Inanda Seminary.

In 1873 the Lindley family, with the exception of one daughter who remained at Inanda as a teacher, left the Mission after establishing the Inanda Seminary, a church and several “kraal schools”. These were entrusted to the Rev. James Dube, half brother of Chief Mqhawe and father of Dr John L Dube (who established the Ohlange School a short distance away from Inanda in 1901).

It was not until the 1970s that the government dismissed the ABM missionaries and teaching staff, by refusing to renew their residence permits. The United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) attempted to uphold quality education at Inanda but by 1997 the Seminary was on the verge of closure.

The property and buildings had deteriorated and international support for the school had declined. The alumnae requested permission from the church to take over the running of the school in order to prevent its closure and to restore its role in society. They reversed a partnership that the school had entered into with the State (where Inanda had temporarily become a state-aided institution) and this returned the school’s status to that of an independent school. The alumnae generated monetary support with the assistance of former president Nelson Mandela who secured corporate sponsorship from Sappi in 2000. This resulted in the renovation of several buildings, the establishment of a maintenance trust fund, and staff development.

Judy Tate, the current principal of Inanda Seminary emphasises the importance of a holistic education programme that upholds Christian values and includes a daily chapel service, while also embracing African traditions as well as independent thinking and the freedom of expression. Today more than 70% of the matriculants continue their education at higher education institutions.

The vision statement of the school includes the empowerment of learners (affectionately known as “members”) to play a role in the development of the nation and become future leaders. The school’s alumnae include Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang; her former deputy Nosizwe Madlala-Routledge; Baleka Mbete, the Speaker of the National Assembly and ANC executive chairperson; and many other distinguished South Africans.

The core values of the school are honesty, loyalty, self-discipline, respect, sociability and responsibility. These values form the foundation of all that is offered and accomplished at the Seminary. “Leaving the school with these six core values is of more importance to us than six distinctions,” says Judy Tate. The school continues to face enormous challenges – similar to those of a century ago – with regard to finances and facilities. There is, inter alia, the need to refurbish Edwards Hall, built in 1888 and gutted by fire in 1993. The plans are for it to provide more classrooms and a media centre. There is also an urgent need for renovating of hostels, a new dining hall and the maintenance of heritage buildings.
The mission and purpose of the Seminary is captured in its six core values and its commitment to service. This enables Seminary members and alumnae, in the words of the school motto, to “shine where you [they] are.”  

A full account of the first hundred years of life at Inanda Seminary was written by Agnes Wood, a teacher at the Seminary from 1931 to 1965.  Published in the centenary year 1969, the book is titled “Shine where you are”: a centenary history of Inanda Seminary, and it is still available at the eThekwini Municipal Library in Durban.

Inanda Seminary is included in the Historic Schools Restoration Project, aiming to restore presently under-resourced South African secondary schools which played a significant role in the formation of our present day nation. These schools, established by various religious orders that sought to provide education experiences to children of Black South African communities, had been responsible for offering quality education to (almost entirely) Black South Africans until the promulgation of the Bantu Education Act of 1953. 


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