Inanda Seminary Turns 150

Inanda Seminary is one of South Africa’s historical schools, a national treasure that has over the years, and against great odds, nurtured many leading black women in our society. It is situated on the edge of Inanda township, 25 km northwest of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal. It is a low-fee, independent boarding school offering an excellent education.

We turn 150 in March this year. The official Birthday celebration is on Saturday 2 March 2019, at 10.00am, in the school chapel. Guest Speakers are Barbara Masekela, Esther Sangweni and Lindokuhle Ngwenya.


Founded on 1 March 1869 by the American Board of Mission, Inanda Seminary was one of few mission schools that managed to retain its independence and withstand the onslaught of Bantu education. The school today still aims to instil the foundational Christian values of honesty, respect, loyalty, sociability, responsibility and self-discipline in the young women who leave the school to be confident leaders in our country.

During the apartheid years, the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) attempted to uphold quality education at Inanda but, by 1997, Inanda Seminary was on the verge of closure. The property and buildings deteriorated and international support for the school declined. The UCCSA announced the closure of the school and a group of 10 alumnae, known as the Power of Ten, mobilised to prevent its closure and to restore its role in society.

Under the chairperson and old girl Esther Sangweni, the Power of Ten generated monetary support with the assistance of former president Nelson Mandela, who in 1999 secured corporate sponsorship from the South African Pulp and Paper Industry (Sappi). This resulted in the renovation of several buildings, the establishment of a maintenance trust fund, staff training and development and the appointment of a principal. Much of the rebirth is a direct result of the leadership of current Executive Director and former Head, Judy Tate, and missionary Rev. Susan Valiquette, who steered the school to stability and excellence.

Prominent alumnae include:

  • Barbara Masekela, former South African ambassador to France and the United States;
  • Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, former South African deputy minister of defence, deputy minister of health and the deputy speaker of the National Assembly;
  • Hixonia Nyasula, founder and executive chairperson of Ayavuna Women’s Investments, a former Unilever director and former Sasol chairperson;
  • Thandi Orleyn, formerly the first chairperson of the Commission for Conciliation Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and BP Southern Africa (Pty) (Ltd). She serves on the boards of Toyota SA and Toyota Financial Services (South Africa). She has also served as a non-executive director of the South African Reserve Bank;
  • Baleka Mbete, speaker of South Africa’s National Assembly and African National Congress (ANC) chairperson.
  • Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita, a South African business executive who has been active in steel, telecommunications and finance and has been CEO of the Dutch mining group, IchorCoal N.V.
  • Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Professor and Research Chair for Historical Trauma and Transformation, Stellenbosch University.
  • Professor Nonhlanhla Khumalo, head of the Division of Dermatology at UCT.