Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa (WK UWCSA) is one of Africa’s first multiracial schools. It was founded in 1963 in Mbabane, Swaziland with just 16 students. Today the school has over 600 students representing more than 50 nationalities, taught by staff from 18 countries. Waterford’s earliest ideals of courage, leadership, and equality remain at its core. Waterford Kamhlaba provides opportunities for academic achievement, personal growth, and leadership development for youth across Africa and the world. Waterford offers education to Forms 1 to 5, with Form 5 sitting the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) qualification, followed by two years dedicated to the International Baccalaureate (IB).
Waterford Kamhlaba’s academic reputation is exceptional. For more than 50 years, Waterford has proven that students thrive in an egalitarian educational environment. IB students achieve an average of 34 points, which the British university admissions system equates to more than four A grades at A-level. Waterford’s academic excellence is complemented with its community service programme, which encourages alumni to be thoughtful and socially responsible global citizens.
Waterford School was opened on a mountainside site on the edge of Mbabane in 1963 by founding head teacher Michael Stern. As one of the first multiracial schools in Southern Africa, Waterford was established in expressed opposition to the South African Apartheid regime and its laws of racial segregation.
Due to colonial norms and expectations, Waterford had an uncertain beginning. Stern’s initial intake of 16 boys included black, white, ‘coloured’ (mixed-race), and Indian students and staff. Many local and international observers deemed this diversity as ‘sick’ and ‘unnatural’. As a result of its nonconformity, the school faced legal, ethical, and financial barriers daily.
With the fall of Apartheid, Waterford rose in rank and recognition. After Nelson Mandela was freed and elected, one of his first ports of call as President was to Waterford. The school acted on the same ethos as he did – a peaceful force that urged people to realise the values of equality and human diversity. Waterford played a small yet significant role in the struggle for racial equality in Southern Africa and its founding principle of equality retains resonance. In a post-colonial era, Waterford has sustained its early vision to educate exceptional students regardless of race, religion or financial background. The school continues to nurture Africa’s future political, business, and civic leaders today.
Top picture: Former British Ambassador Sir John Maud opens Waterford School March 1963