History of St. Andrew’s School

60 Years – 1958- 2018

1. St Andrew’s High School 1958-1965 The exact beginnings of Saint Andrew’s are uncertain and there are many differing views as to when the first Saint Andrew’s school actually appeared! Various sources show that our origins can be traced back to the 1920s when, with a growing number of ‘expatriates’ arriving in Nyasaland after World War One, small private schools were set up in Limbe, Blantyre and Zomba with the purpose of making ‘European education’ available to the children of colonial officers, traders and planters. Discussions continued throughout the 1930s on how best to provide this education more centrally, with things coming to a head in 1932 when Richard Paterson, Headmaster of the Henry Henderson Institute in the Church of Scotland Mission in Blantyre, admitted to the Mission Council that, “Today the problem of education of European children gives the country some concern. “Various committees in 1933 and 1935 pushed the issue further and finally in 1937, the Church of Scotland Mission and the Nyasaland Government signed an agreement to establish, in Blantyre, a Primary School for ‘European children’ – the government put up £2,500 on the condition that the Mission gave use of the land and would build the school. The decision may well have been influenced by the news in 1935 that a local Blantyre private school for ‘Europeans’, owned by the Rev. W Wratten was to close. The Mission Committee, composed of Scots, had come up with possible names such as St Columba’s and Lona School but finally settled on the name of St Andrew’s. Thus the ‘first’ St. Andrew’s was a Primary school which enrolled its first pupils in May 1938 and with many parents living ‘up country’, a hostel was opened in 1939 in Sunnyside. The first teacher was Miss Danielson, originally from the Shetland Islands. In 1947 the Nyasaland government took over control of the school.

On the 3rd September 1953, Nyasaland was incorporated into the controversial Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (or Central African Federation, once described as the most complicated system of government ever established!) – something opposed by a large number of African nationalists such as Dr. Hastings Banda who came to political prominence constantly criticizing what he saw as a plan to allow white minority-ruled Rhodesia to dominate its poorer neighbours and enforce white rule. Despite the ongoing tension surrounding Banda’s vocal opposition to the Federation, plans were drawn up in 1955 by the Federal Government’s Department of Education for the first ever High School to be established in Nyasaland. The current site in Nyambadwe, just off the Chileka Road, was chosen.

In mid-1956 the Standard 4 and 5 Junior students moved up from the ‘Mission School’ to the new High School site, with building work still going on around them. The first full school term started on January 28th 1957 (some consider this to be the ‘birthday’ of Saint Andrew’s High School) – the previous year’s Standard 5 pupils becoming the new Senior Form 1 and with Doug Eccles acting as Head Teacher for both Junior and High Schools. Seemingly in keeping with the history of St.Andrew’s, exact records are yet to be found but to date, the names of 54 pupils who started in the very first Senior classes at the High School have been found – known as the ‘Club 57’.

In the first year of the High School, over 300 children joined the school with expatriate parents now preferring to send their children to the new school rather than boarding schools around the world. In 1958, the Federal government decided to split up the various elements within St. Andrew’s into separate schools – creating three entities – a Kindergarten, a Preparatory School and the High School. Saint Andrew’s High School therefore officially came into being as a separate school in 1958 – hence why the 60th Diamond Celebrations are being held in 2018.

The first students appeared to have done well academically. In an end of school year speech in 1958, it was noted that “Two girls qualified as Doctors at Edinburgh University, while another girl hopes to qualify in Medicine at Aberdeen University next year. Several girls entered the Nursing Profession in Scotland, while another qualified as a Physiotherapist. One girl made the Theatre her profession and she reached the London stage.”

The first permanent Head Teacher of the High School was Bill Owen, who took charge full-time in 1959, although this was far from a smooth appointment – in 1957 Doug Eccles rejected the chance to become permanent Head Teacher of the High School, preferring to remain with the Junior School which was his specialism, resulting in Robert Klette taking control. Klette himself was promoted to  Regional Director of Education in Nyasaland after just one term so the responsibility was passed to senior teacher Hillary Parsons. Eccles was asked once again to become Head Teacher, but the response was the same as earlier in the year. Eccles did, however, recommend a former RAF acquaintance of his, a certain Bill Owen. Parsons worked two terms in conjunction with Owen until Owen took sole control. Like most things to do with the history of St. Andrew’s, it is far from straight forward!


With the Juniors now ensconced in the new Junior School building in Sunnyside (now SAIPS), the High School began to expand. With help from the Beit Trust, who would go on to play a considerable role in the development of the School, the swimming pool was completed in 1959 ready for the first swimming gala that same year. Swimming thereby became an integral part of the School’s sporting scene, to the extent that some of pupils have become Olympic competitors – Joyce Tafatatha swam for Malawi in the London Olympics of 2012 and the most recent competitor was Ammara Pinto who competed in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio in the 50 Metres Women’s Freestyle. Indeed, from the earliest days of St. Andrew’s sport has played an important role in school life – football, cricket, netball, hockey, tennis, athletics, swimming and rugby formed the basis for sport at the school with badminton, volleyball, squash and water polo being added over the years. The first Sports Day Victor Ludorum was Johnannes Klopper – who in 1959 won every event he was entered for, aside from the 880 yards.

Aside from their studies, students of Saint Andrew’s in 1959 had a wide range of activities to get involved with – for example a Young Farmers’ Club which kept a variety of animals, including ‘Womba’, a Friesian calf, and also grew vegetables to feed the students in the hostel. Other activities included an archery club for boys, a riding school with six horses stabled at the school (fees for this activity were four pounds per term!), a motor maintenance club and a cadet corps which often competed against Rhodesian regiments.

These events give the feel of a school very much of its colonial time, reflecting its foundation as a British-style public school with all the associated traditions, aims and organisation – particularly through the house structure and clear love of sport across a wide variety of activities with successes evident from the early days against more established Rhodesian schools.

During the Federation period, four Houses were created both in terms of pastoral care and for school competitions, very much following the traditional structure of UK independent schools. The original Houses at St. Andrew’s were named after key figures in the colonial history of Nyasaland. Johnston (Green) was named after Sir Harry Johnston, Consul from 1899 and depending on your perspective, an imperialist and firm believer in the ‘Cape to Cairo’ dream who played a key role in the British ‘land grab’ of the Central African Protectorate or a man who brought peace to the region and did much to improve the infrastructure of early Nyasaland. Livingstone (Yellow) was named after the explorer and missionary David Livingstone whilst Laws (Red) was named after Robert Laws (1851-1934) who set up the Livingstonia Mission and did much for education in Nyasaland. Finally, Sharpe (Blue) was named after Alfred Sharpe, first Governor of Nyasaland.

Saint Andrew’s rapidly grew to accommodate over 350 students by the early 1960s, despite the school not having a Sixth Form, nor offering A-Level studies.  However, colonial rule in Africa was rapidly coming to an end, with Harold Macmillan’s ‘Wind of Change’ becoming a reality across the continent. In Nyasaland change was hastened by the return of Dr Hastings Banda to Nyasaland at the request of the ‘Young Turks’ – Henry Chipembere, Kanyama Chiume, TDT Banda and Dunduzu Chisiza.

In 1958 a wave of protests began across the country, culminating in riots in early 1959 which saw Rhodesian troops sent in to Nyasaland as a state of emergency was declared, with Banda himself being arrested on 3rd March. St. Andrew’s was inevitably caught up in the troubles, although the Head Teacher’s notes from the magazine of 1959 focused more on chess, bridge, judo, Scottish dancing and the sailing club than the problems going on around Blantyre!  In May 1960, students from St. Andrew’s lined the route of the British Queen Mother as she passed to unveil the war memorial in Chichiri, with one student noting that “as Her Majesty passed St. Andrew’s, her car slowed down considerably.”

It was clear that the end of the Federation was approaching rapidly and this would of course bring new challenges for St. Andrew’s. Indeed, as with any other international school, the history of St. Andrew’s and its successes and failures are ultimately tied to the health of the country. Bill Owen was clearly aware of the issues facing St. Andrew’s and wrote about the “the agonising burden of uncertainty” in a 1964 magazine’s editorial, adding “…most of the staff will be leaving in 1964, along with many of the pupils. It is very much a feeling of saying goodbye.”

 Thankfully, despite the pessimism, St. Andrew’s refused to be destroyed so soon into its history by events going on in Nyasaland and when, on the 5th July 1964, the new nation of Malawi was born, led by Dr Hastings Banda and the Malawi Congress Party, the school came under the control of the Malawian Department of Education. On the 6th July a Civic Luncheon was held at the school ‘to commemorate the country’s attainment of independence’ with a toast to the state of Malawi being made by the Duke of Edinburgh. Dr Hastings Banda gave the reply. Colonial rule therefore passed in to history and thus ended the Federal Period of St. Andrew’s School.

To read more about the History of SAIntS go to the Federal SAIntS website​


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