On January 22, 1956 in a little place close to Mariannhill called Pinetown, the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood opened a tiny school in an old wood-and-iron house with only 32 pupils. This was the humble beginning of an educational facility that has grown to become a flourishing school in the area, with a present enrolment of 400 students.
Sister Pia Jacobs and her successors as Principals did not hesitate to take on the task of building a fully fledged and well-equipped primary and high school where boys and girls would be introduced to academic, artistic, musical and sporting excellence and would be invited to allow their seeds of faith to unfold in a Catholic environment nurtured by scripture classes and a multitude of spiritual adventures.
Tragically in November 1971 a fire swept through the school, destroying many classrooms in the primary school. Not dampening their spirits, temporary classrooms were found at Gelofte Skool. The Parent-Teacher Association under the Chairmanship of Mr Chris Phillips undertook the task of rebuilding the school. In a great spirit of solidarity with the sisters and loyalty to the school, the classrooms were rebuilt over the Christmas holidays. The new classrooms were ready for use in the new school year of January 1972.
Sister Clair Wade, who became the principal in 1990, and her staff went a step further in intensifying the educational endeavours. The Whole Brain Learning, with its emphasis on acknowledging the seven intelligences, became the learning and teaching strategy. Now the students could discover and proudly show their strengths in more than the language or numeric areas. Music, creativity, body movement, interpersonal abilities and self-knowledge – everyone is strong in an area – were all incorporated into the daily events of a subject.
Another challenge for the school, as with all schools in South Africa, was the advent of Outcomes Based Education in 1997. Staff, accepting this challenge set by the Education Department, went about learning new skills so that they might be ready to implement Outcomes Based Education. Together with Whole Brain Learning and Outcomes Based Education, the school strives for a holistic education so that their students are able to develop into fully human persons – living up to Jesus’ words in John.
10:10 ‘I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full.’In 1998 a new and the first lay principal, Carol Spence, re-opened the high school, which had been closed in 1997 owing to a shortage of religious staff and the unfavourable economic climate. St Benedict School was privileged to have Anne Maclean as principal from 2000. Her enthusiasm, dedication, commitment and passion for music impacted on many areas of school life. Both staff and pupils respected her expertise and leadership.
Arthur Hill joined the school as Principal in April 2002 and, with his many years of experience in education, he consistently strives to accommodate the diverse interests and needs of the learners at the school. We believe that the ultimate success of the school is founded on a humanity-based and value-based curriculum where what our learners become is equally important to what they achieve. Since 2002 the Grade 12’s (of the newly opened High School) have enjoyed a 100% pass rate, continuing the high academic standard set by its founders.
With the dramatic growth of the school over the past few years the Board of Governors decided to establish an additional High School wing in 2008 to accommodate the increased numbers of learners seeking enrolment at the school. A swimming pool was also built and opened in 2009 to consolidate the sporting facilities at the school.
With learner and staffing numbers having doubled since 2002. Dr Barbara Bowley is currently the Principal of the entire school. Her experience and contribution will undoubtedly contribute to the academic and administrative needs of the school. She is assisted by Mr Sean Topper who is the Head of the High School and Mrs Gillian Rayner who is the Head of the Primary School. For many years, this multiracial school has been a step ahead of many other schools in South Africa. It has accepted children from all walks of life. It provides a quality Independent School education at the lowest possible cost and challenges children to become the future Christian leaders of South Africa, able to think and reason independently and to work together as a rainbow student body.
St Benedict School lives up to its patron’s ideal that everyone is special in God’s eyes and deserves to be respected, loved and cared for a community of equals and friends.