Offices & Resources

The St. Mark's and Waterford Kamhlaba School Exchange: Creating Transformative Experiences
The St. Mark's and Waterford Kamhlaba School Exchange: Creating Transformative Experiences

Chapel Talk
John C. Warren, '74
Laura P. Appell-Warren

We are all of the earth, which does not see difference of colour, religion or race. We are 'Kamhlaba' - all of one world.
His Majesty King Sobhuza II (1967)

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.
Desmond Tutu

As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.
Nelson Mandela

[Dr. Appell-Warren Introduction]

Good Morning everyone and welcome back; it is good to see you all! In 2013 when Mr. Warren and I were on sabbatical, and as I was working to build the St. Mark's Global Citizenship Program, we decided to visit some schools with the goal of creating exchange programs with those schools. Our first visit was to the Waterford Kamhlaba School in Mbabane, Swaziland which as you can see from the map is bordered on three sides by South Africa and on one side by Mozambique.

As you will soon hear from Mr. Warren, St. Mark's and the Waterford Kamhlaba School have a long and rich connection. I am very proud to be working to help revive an exchange between our two schools because of that rich history and because of what I hear from St. Markers who participated in that exchange in the 1960's; St. Markers like Mr. Sam Goodyear, St. Mark's 1961, and Dr. Oliver Dominick, St. Mark's 1969, who are here with us today. However, it was my own experience visiting the school and visiting Swaziland that convinced me that the Waterford Kamhlaba School would be as great a fit for us in the 2000's as it was for the school in the 1960's.

In addition to our common Anglican roots, the Waterford Kamhlaba School is the most diverse school that I have ever had the privilege of visiting. When Mr. Warren and I were there in 2013, 60 countries were represented in the student body, including the United States, and the students there represent a wide range of socio-economic, ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds. Like St. Mark's The Waterford Kamhlaba School has strong academic, athletic and community service programs. However, unlike St. Mark's, it is set in a marvelously different part of the world, where yes, you can see lions!

[Mr. Warren History]

The St. Mark's relationship with Waterford Kamhlaba began in 1965 thanks to the initiative of St. Mark's Chaplain, Ed Ward. Reverend Ward believed that St. Mark's students would benefit from opportunities to gain a broader perspective on the world. So, we can view Reverend Ward as an early proponent of what we now call Global Citizenship. In 1964-65, while on sabbatical, he traveled throughout Africa seeking an appropriate school to partner with St. Mark's, and happily for St. Mark's, he discovered Waterford.[1]

Waterford was a very new school when Reverend Ward visited, having only opened in 1963, two years before. Waterford's founding mission was to provide a high quality education to children of all races, in stark contrast to neighboring South Africa's racially segregated education. South Africa was then governed by the apartheid system whereby blacks and whites were separated in all aspects of life: housing, occupation, education, healthcare, worship; everything.The conditions for blacks were vastly inferior to the conditions for whites.

Waterford had been founded by Michael Stern, an experienced and accomplished educator who had held leadership positions at schools in England and in South Africa. Indeed, in South Africa he had led a school for black children. However, the South African government shut it down. Stern then led a school for white children in South Africa. Stern's increasing revulsion with apartheid prompted his vision to start a school for students of all races, and he decided that Swaziland was the perfect location for such a school because it could easily draw students from neighboring South Africa.

Stern's passion for this vision motivated a number of skilled educators to join him in the venture to start Waterford, and his passion prompted considerable philanthropic support from South Africans and Americans and British who were enthusiastic about the prospect of a school that provided an alternative to apartheid education. His passion made technical support possible too. A parent who signed up his son for the school, a well-known Portuguese architect, designed the original school buildings for free. Another parent offered invaluable engineering expertise.[2]

Waterford opened in February 1963 with 16 boys. The students were described, in articles reporting the founding, according to the categories commonly understood by South Africans during the apartheid era: white (seven), black (six), Indian (one) and coloured (two), with the word coloured connoting mixed race.[3] Life was not easy for these pioneering students or for Stern and the faculty. They experienced considerable animosity, especially from white South Africans. In addition to Waterford students and faculty receiving verbal taunts when they spent time in South Africa, they also had the tires of their cars slashed and heard cruel remarks from members of peer schools.[4] The resilience displayed by these early students and faculty is remarkable.

Essential to the success of Waterford in its early years was the inspired leadership of Michael Stern who remained as head for the school's first ten years. [Slide 12] Dr. Dominick saw Michael Stern's inspired leadership up close and personal when he spent the summer of 1968 at Waterford. In Dr. Dominick's words, Michael Stern "created a fire of hope, of inclusiveness, of service, and of humanity during the worst depths of South African racism. He was utterly admirable from the point of view of this 17 year old American student: warm, direct, evidently fearless, inspiring."[5]

Waterford's stature in the region was boosted in 1967 by the official blessing of Swaziland's King Sobhuza II Ngwenyama. The King advocated for a change in the school's name, adding the word Kamhlaba. Kamhlaba, as we heard at the outset of this talk, means "all of one world," focusing on the common humanity of people as opposed to focusing on differences of color, religion or race.

Thanks to Michael Stern's leadership and the excellent leadership of his successors, thanks to dedicated work by faculty and students, and thanks to continued generous financial support, Waterford Kahmlaba thrived in the 1960s and 1970s, creating a foundation that it continues to build upon to this day. The roster of graduates is impressive indeed, including children of prominent South Africans like Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Desmond Tutu, and Nobel Prize-winning novelist Nadine Gordimer, the first president of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama, and the revolutionary leaders of Mozambique Eduardo Mondlane and Fernando Honwana.[6]

The St. Mark's connection with Waterford Kamhlaba, remember, began in the school's early days. While Reverend Ward convinced St. Mark's headmaster, Bill Barber, to develop a partnership between the two schools in 1965, Waterford's third year, Ward did not follow through on the details because he left St. Mark's in June 1965 to become head of Salisbury School.

Fortunately for the partnership, Math and Science teacher Douglas Peterson took up the project and spent the summer of 1965 at Waterford with two Class of 1965 St. Markers, Rodney Frelinghuysen and Charlie Peck. While at Waterford, the three helped build a dormitory and science classroom building, and assisted with teaching and coaching younger students. "This is basically an experiment to see how we Americans fit in," Peterson wrote in an essay for the St. Mark's Bulletin. "While working, we will be learning a new and different culture, and we expect to get much more than we give." Accommodations were rustic indeed, as the St. Markers spent the summer living in a tent.[7]

The St. Mark's-Waterford Kamhlaba connection, though involving a relatively small number of participants, remained robust into the early 1970s. In addition to the St. Markers who spent the summer of 1965 at Waterford, St. Markers also spent the summers of 1966, 1967, and 1968 working there. Mr. Goodyear spent three years on the Waterford Kamhlaba faculty in the early 1970s, and he was joined on the faculty in 1972 by Jock Spivy, St. Mark's Class of 1969. Four members of the Waterford Kamhlaba community spent time at St. Mark's in the winter of 1968, including Waterford Kamhlaba Headmaster Michael Stern. Two Waterford Kamhlaba faculty members spent the 1970-71 academic year at St. Mark's.[8]

During the successive summers, St. Markers experienced Waterford Kamhlaba as more and more like a typical school because of the year by year construction of facilities in the academic, athletic, and residential realms. As Dr. Dominick recollects about the summer of 1968, "By the time I arrived, Waterford was emerging from its 'pioneer' stage...Now there was a completed main building with assembly room and classrooms. Our SM contingent was housed comfortably. [Fellow St. Mark's students] Kinnicutt, Howe, and I roomed together in a building for faculty and students plus art space. There was a completed lower school building. It felt more like an operational school and less like a triage unit." Dr. Dominick and his fellow St. Markers combined taking classes that summer with participating in student activities, engaging in construction work and teaching classes for younger students.[9]

Dr. Dominick's Waterford Kamhlaba summer of 1968 was significant for Swaziland because Swaziland was preparing for its independence from Great Britain. The formal change of status took place in September.[10] Rather than a protectorate, Swaziland would become an independent kingdom, as it is today. The St. Markers at Waterford Kamhlaba had a unique opportunity to witness and participate in this momentous time. Dr. Dominick remembers, as a member of the Waterford Kamhlaba Glee Club, learning three alternate possibilities for a national anthem that the Glee Club performed for the Swazi Parliament, which was tasked with choosing between the three. Dr. Dominick also contributed batik lampshades, curtains and other decorations for the royal palace, helping the Waterford Kamhlaba art teacher fulfill a commission given to him by the King.

St. Markers I talk to who spent time at Waterford Kamhlaba inevitably describe how the experience changed the way they viewed the world. Mr. Goodyear told me that his summer at Waterford Kamhlaba in 1967 and then his three years on the faculty in the early 1970s were "life turned me around 180 degrees." Seeing apartheid in South Africa he recounts, "made me finally understand my country. The prejudice and segregation in the United States did not seem that different from what I saw in South Africa." Seeing that injustice "galvanized a feeling of responsibility in me to fight prejudice in every way I could, which I have been committed to ever since."

Mr. Spivy told me that his time on the Waterford Kamhlaba faculty in 1972 showed him a troubling side of human nature that expanded his understanding of how people can think about and treat one another. As he traveled with Waterford Kamhlaba students, Mr. Spivy saw multiple examples of white South Africans expressing hatred toward Waterford Kamhlaba students and faculty as well as observing smaller scale instances of disrespect that we now call micro-aggressions. No matter how resilient you are, being on the receiving end of hatred and disrespect hurts and seeing these interactions remains in your mind, even decades later.

Dr. Dominick reports, "The overwhelming contrast between the apartheid tension there and the vibrant humanism of Waterford made it inconceivable to me that apartheid would do anything other than self-destruct in the immediate future, from within and from external pressure from disgusted European democracies and the United States. That it took so long (25 years!) was another significant aspect of my learning."

Dr. Dominick's time at Waterford Kamhlaba influenced his career path by fueling a life-long desire to spend significant amounts of time in Africa. "I directed my interest in biology (which was nurtured at St. Mark's)," he explains, "toward research which combined the sense of global purpose with neuroscience, endocrinology, and physiology. My PhD research used an insect system which led to work on malaria as well as multiple opportunities to work in Africa on insect vectored diseases, agricultural impacts, and teaching."[11]

Dr. Dominick observes that "It was at Waterford Kamhlaba where I first saw what commitment to racial and cultural unity looked like and what global citizenship could be." [12] That experience, inspired by founding headmaster Michael Stern's vision is certainly being enjoyed by Waterford Kamhlaba students today. From its beginning in 1963 with sixteen students, Waterford Kamhlaba now enrolls over 600 students representing 60 nationalities, taught by a staff from eighteen countries.[13]

Waterford Kamhlaba is certainly living up to the aspirations of its mission, as it "strives to lay the foundations for its students to become responsible citizens who have the skills, knowledge and sense of purpose to provide leadership in both Africa and the world." [14] How fortunate that some St. Markers in the 1960s and 1970s had the opportunity to contribute to the development of such a special school.

[Dr. Appell-Warren Conclusion]

We toss off the phrase "being a global citizen" with great ease these days. However, because the phrase lies at the core of what St. Mark's stands for we need to dig more deeply into its meaning. Being a global citizen is about much more than simply traveling. A global citizen is someone who truly sees and appreciates the distinctive features and the beauty that exist in the variety of cultures of the world, is someone who appreciates the human universals that make people more similar than different, someone who is aware of the wider world, and who has a sense of his or her own place within that world. A global citizen respects and values diversity, has an understanding of the complexity of the interconnected systems that make up the world, is troubled by social injustice and feels an ethical responsibility to others around the globe. A global citizen is someone who is willing to take action to make a difference.

Over Spring Break Mr. Cifuentes went to the Waterford Kamhlaba School and he is eager to work with me and with you, faculty and students, to craft an exchange program. I hope, now that you know the history of the Waterford Kamhlaba School, and now that you have heard a bit about the impact of that exchange on an earlier generation of St. Markers, that some of you will want to be part of a new, pioneer group; one that reinvents the exchange. I also hope that, whether at Waterford Kamhlaba or at another location, you will want to become engaged global citizens - eager to work together to solve problems of global and local importance.

[1] Oliver Dominick, Travels of a St. Marker to Waterford Kamhlaba School, Swaziland, 1968, privately published, 2018.

[2] Information taken from Waterford Kamhlaba website.

[4] Waterford Kamhlaba website.

[5] Dominick.

[6] Waterford Kamhlaba website.

[7] Richard E. Noble, The Echo of Their Voices: 150 Years of St. Mark's School, Hollis, New Hampshire: Hollis Publishing, 2015, p. 485.

[8] Noble, pp. 504, 507, 531.

[9] Dominick.

[11] Dominick

[12] Dominick

[13] Waterford Kamhlaba website

[14] Waterford Kamhlaba website