, 15 February, 2020 / 12:20 AM
The oldest boys’ school in the South African nation of Zimbabwe run by the members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) has broken a 124-year tradition by admitting girls for the first-time-ever at its Harare-based facility, a move that the school's administration has termed “historical.”
“Today is a historical day for all of us. After 124 years, today St. George’s is welcoming girls to the school,” the Rector of the institution, Fr. Joe Arimoso said in a February 10 video posted on the Facebook of the Jesuits Communications Zimbabwe.
Located in Harare’s suburb, Borrowdale, St. George’s school welcomed the first 30 girls in the school’s history, for their A-levels studies on February 10.
The school has a total population of 820 students and follows the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) syllabus at International General Certificate of Secondary Education IGCSE, AS, and A level.
Explaining why the institution made the historical move, Jesuit Fr. Arimoso made reference to the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs), a set of four areas approved by Pope Francis in February 2019 that act as a point of reference for all Jesuits across the globe.
“We need to understand that 124 years ago when the school was established, it was also determined by the social factors then where girls were basically seen as staying at home,” Fr. Arimoso is seen explaining in the video.
“But today,” the Jesuit cleric adds, “we cannot exclude the girls and moreover, when the Society of Jesus we are talking about the four UAPs – Universal Apostolic Preferences and one of them specifically says that we have to look at the excluded people in the communities; I think this school was excluding girls and hence we are responding to that.”
Besides the institution adhering to the UAPs, the Marketing and Admissions Officer Daniel Zanin told ACI Africa Thursday, February 13 that the presence of the female students “will allow for collaborative learning to occur in a contemporary learning environment” as well as enable the school to optimize its learning environment.
One of the 30 girls in the inaugural intake, Providence Nhongo who is taking Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry as well as Business Studies expressed her joy for being in the school saying, “I’m feeling really excited about being here because somehow I’m going to be a history maker at St. George’s, which is a really growing school and it offers exactly what I need.”
According to Mr. Zanin, while the first intake involved 30 girls, the college is “aiming to bring in around 60-70 ladies” in 2021.
Mr. Zanin clarified that the ladies “are only joining us for their A-Levels. The institution will have only boys in Forms 1-4.”
On the preparedness of the institution for this historical change, the Admissions Officer told ACI Africa during the Thursday, February 13 interview, “We are well prepared.”
“During the course of last year, our staff underwent various workshops and talks regarding the introduction of ladies,” he said and added, “our internal boys also underwent various talks on how to interact and work collaboratively with the ladies.”
Founded in 1896 by French Jesuit, Fr. Marc Barthélemy, the college completes the Red Blazer Route consisting of three educational institutions run by the Jesuits. They include Paul Miki Learning Centre (Grades 0-2), Hartmann House (Grades 3-7) and St. George’s College (Forms 1-6). The name Red Blazer is in reference to the red blazers worn by the students.
In 2003, Africa Almanac ranked St George's College position 5 out of the top 100 best high schools in Africa, based upon the caliber of education, student engagement, strength and activities of alumni, school profile, internet and news visibility.
In 2014, the school was ranked among the top ten high schools in Zimbabwe.
The 124-year-old school is guided by the motto “Ex Fide Fiducia”, a Latin phrase meaning "From Faith Comes Confidence."
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa