The Holy Childhood School in Eshowe, South Africa, was founded by our Sisters a long time ago. They ran it for almost half a century, before some responsibility was given to lay people. Today, the sisters still have a strong link to the school.
Almost seventy years ago, the Sisters of the Servant of the Holy Childhood of Jesus were called by the late Rt. Rev. Bishop Aurelian Belgeri in the Diocese of Eshowe. They first four of them arrived in 1952, coming from Germany. No sooner had they arrived, requests for the opening of a school in Eshowe reached the Bishop. Our congregation responded to the call and opened a pre-primary and later a primary school, starting only with 20 learners and two sisters teaching. As the years went by the numbers increased and more classes were added every year. Twelve sisters served in the convent school in those early years. Today, more than 280 children learn at Holy Childhood School. It is an independent school, following the curriculum of the South African education system. The school is open to multiracial learners: Black, white, coloured and Indian children come together to receive quality education. The Holy Childhood School opened their doors for children of all races in 1977. Amid the Apartheid regime, this was a courageous step by the Sisters. The school was alienated from sports fixtures and exposed to intense scrutiny from the Department of Education. At the same time, their stand enabled the Sisters to meet the demands of the Gospel.
Today, three of our Sisters are still working in school. One of them, Sr. Liboria, came to South Africa in 1969. She taught in grade 5 for many years and now holds the position of Bursar at school. She also serves positions on both the management team and the Governing Body. She is an essential member of the staff. Sr. Fidelis started teaching 55 years ago and continues to teach Religious Education until today. She is also in charge of liturgical planning for school assemblies and Masses. “I have a passion for teaching”, she says. “And it brings so much joy to see my past pupils as teachers in our school now.” Sr. Maria has just recently joined the Holy Childhood School family. Working with children has always been her passion. She is an assistant in grades 1 and 2 and teaches Life Skills in grade 2 every Friday. This has been a learning curve for her as she is not a qualified teacher yet. She is still in the process of studying.
The school is run by a governing body, consisting of both parents’ representatives and sisters. The daily business is overseen by the principal, Mrs. Meg Kennedy. Due to the reality that the Sisters got older and fewer, they could no longer run the school on their own after the sudden death of Sr. Theodelind in 1998. Still, to this day they are the owners of the institution. The school’s ethics continue to be based on Catholic values, and our sisters also have their voice in the decision-making. Sr. Gregoria joined the school as a representative of the Sisters after Sr. Theodelind died. She also assisted in the establishment of the school’s Governing Body. At the start of this year Sr. Assumpta took over as a representative. Just recently, two important documents for the Holy Childhood School were signed by our Mother General, Sr. Katharina, as a representative of the Owner, and Meg Kennedy as a representative of the School. The first one is the new Constitution of the school. The second document is the Use Agreement which guides the cooperation between the school and the congregation now and in the future.
Sisters and staff have a good working and friendly relationship. The school children are a vital part of the sisters’ everyday life, because the school still has its home on convent grounds. Even the Sisters who are not part of the staff support the school on many occasions. At events such as swimming galas, fundraising days, concerts and plays, prize giving and many more the Sisters attend to express their ongoing unity with the school.
The Holy Childhood Sisters are grateful to God for the growth of the school over the years. Their hearts are at ease because the school is in good hands. The governing body and the management team have done very good work so far. They have established Holy Childhood School as one of the oldest and most respected institutions in Zululand. Amongst our congregation, there is hope that more young Sisters will serve in this ministry in the future.
Text & Photos: Sr. Maria Machi