St Chad's entered into a partnership with St Matthew's High School in 2009. The College sends groups of up to six student volunteers in the January and July terms, for up to three months. While there, the volunteers help out in the classroom, and supplement the classroom by mentoring, by organising sports, by initiating and supporting all manner of extra-curricular activities, including music and drama.
St Matthew's is a state boarding school for 500 girls, chiefly serving the local region. It also has around 100 boy day students from local villages. The residence charges are incredibly low, even by South African standards, but that translates into meagre resources necessarily supplemented by loads of generosity and ingenuity by the staff and students. This part of the Eastern Cape is especially poor, and the school is fairly remote. Services, such as water and electricity are intermittent, and life can be tough for everyone, staff and students alike. Again, such meagre resources demand generosity and ingenuity, not to mention a sense of humour.
The major goal of the partnership is frankly to encourage friendship across continents and cultures. From St Matthew's point of view, our volunteers provide their learners a chance to learn about the UK, and indeed about the developed world.
Our students bring subject-specialist skills, but they also bring native English-language skills, which are crucial given that instruction is in English but that English is not the mother tongue of the students.
The following link to a YouTube video produced by Tom Welch, one of the 2010 volunteers, gives a good introduction to the school and to the College's involvement with the school:
For many learners, this will be the first contact they will have had with someone from Europe. More often than not, this will be the first opportunity they will have had to live and chat freely with a person of another race or with people who have enjoyed considerable privileges growing up in the West.
From St Chad's point of view, this is an opportunity for the volunteers to experience the stubborn challenges of living and of development in Sub-Saharan Africa and to experience firsthand the legacy of apartheid, working in a school that was devastated by discriminatory education policies in the past. Again, most importantly, the fundamental value of the project is to meet South African young people, to listen to their dreams, to experience their joys and frustrations, to put a face on poverty, and to come to understand the underlying causes of the challenges they face. In this way, the global challenges of development take on a very human face.
The project is funded by the volunteers themselves, by the College, and by benefactors. The volunteers generally pay for their airfare, and the College provides a car, meals, accommodation and enough pocket-money to provide for daily living. Benefactors, including the Calabar Foundation and regular College supporters, have helped out with such things as airfare, living costs or car rental. Their ongoing help is very much appreciated.
St Chad's students interested in volunteering should contact the Principal, Dr Joe Cassidy, in the first instance. There is often more interest than there are places, so signalling your interest early is important.
A commitment to hard work and a willingness to put up with the unfamilair and the unexpected are essentials. This is not a holiday. Life in this part of South Africa can be quite tough, and not everyone will be resourceful enough, creative enough, or tough enough to meet the challenge. That said, the programme can be, and usually is, tremendously rewarding.
Occasionally students from other colleges are able to accompany our students, especially when we're looking for a particular skill.
On being enthroned as Bishop of Grahamstown in 1854, John Armstrong committed the Anglican Church to respond to the needs of the Xhosa people suffering the impact of the warsof dispossession. This resulted in the establishment of four Eastern Cape missions: St Johns,St Lukes, St Marks and St Matthews.
Chief Socishe donated 690 acres of land for the St Matthews Mission and Sir George Grey, the colonial governor, approved the development. The school began to teach literacy in 1856 and soon added other subjects. One of the first students was a son of Chief Sandile, and the children of other prominent families joined the growing number of children and young people attending the school. In 1857 courses in industrial subjects and agriculture were added to the curriculum, and the school population grew further.
The institutional link between St Matthews and St Andrews College in Grahamstown began in the 1860s when students were sent from mission schools to what was known as the Kaffir Institute that was part of St Andrews College in Grahamstown. Here they were received by the Rev. Greenstick, the founder of the Institute, who later moved to St Matthews.
A hospital and training facility for nurses was opened at St Matthews in 1923 and a secondary school was inaugurated in 1926. Like other mission schools, St Matthews was taken over by the state as a result of the 1953 Bantu Education Act. In 1957 the Anglican Church was forced to withdraw from direct involvement in education at St Matthews. In 1970 the state bought most of St Matthews’ land and in 1976 the hospital was taken over by the Ciskei government. It was closed ten years later and was moved to Keiskammahoek, where it became known as the SS Gida Hospital.
The first resident missionary to St Matthews, the Rev. HB Smith, worked closely with the military chaplain, the Rev. George Dacre, to lay the foundations of the earliest buildings and build the water furrows that still supply water to the school. Others contributed to the mission in different ways, with Greenstock becoming a skilled linguist and writer of hymns in isiXhosa.
In the 1860s Charles Taberer made a significant contribution to the school, offering academic classes in the morning and engaging learners in industrial work in the afternoon. He oversaw the laying of the foundation stone of the church and opened a hostel for girls. He developed several out-stations and trained catechists to service these stations, and he also established ten satellite elementary schools that were supervised from St Matthews. The record shows that the parents of 786 learners were able to pay the prescribed school fees to these schools and that the mission’s circulating library had over 600 books. Extramural activities included a debating society and cricket. Education for boys was extended to secondary school level and in 1897 the Normal School for Girls was established.
The proclamation of the gospel and the teaching of academic and industrial skills were promoted hand-in-hand by Taberer – giving expression to Bishop Armstrong’s insistence that “educational and industrial training were invaluable to spiritual life.”
The Bantu Education Act ended this level of education at St Matthews. With closure looming at the time of the centenary celebrations of St Matthew’s College in 1955, Jennifer Taberer, the great-granddaughter of Charles Taberer, unveiled a memorial archway at the college in honour of Bishop Armstrong, the visionary founder of St Matthews, Chief Socishe, who donated the land, and Charles Taberer, the “father” of what the mission became. Within two years of the centenary the apartheid state put an end to the kind of education that made St Matthews an educational centre that helped shape the lives of so many of its learners.
“It is the vision portrayed in the memorial archway that inspires us to rekindle the flame that gave birth to St Matthews,” says Mr M Gquma, the current principal of the school. It is a vision that has not been lost. In spite of limited resources, the Grade 12 pass rate for 2007 was 96%, with five learners achieving A’s in mathematics. The original church is used by a women’s textile NGO that makes uniforms for the learners and future plans include a community outreach programme that will serve the five villages that surround the school and the town of Keiskammahoek.
St Matthews’ alumni include Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, the Minister of Home Affairs. Others occupy positions in a range of disciplines and professions, including education, health, government and business. “The school that some of our alumni attended waits to be rebuilt,” says Gquma. “The teachers and governing body are ready to take up the challenge.”