“Let’s do things on our own …”: Gender and class dynamics during the quest to restore Inanda Seminary’s financial integrity, 1999-2001
Couper, Scott Everett
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During the 1990s, decades of disinvestment caused by Bantu Education prohibited Inanda Seminary from competing equally with other previously advantaged Whites-only private and former public ‘Model C’ schools within South Africa’s new democratic dispensation. In December 1997, after decades of institutional corrosion, the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa decided to close the Seminary. Yet, the Seminary opened in January 1998 under new management composed entirely of middle-class alumnae determined to breathe new life into the school still teetering precariously. This article chronicles three years, 1999 to 2001, thereby documenting the school’s ultimate defeat over and recovery from Bantu Education. Though Inanda Seminary’s middle-class alumnae saved it from closure, its more elite graduates did not initially feature prominently in the school’s financial stabilisation. Rather, men, both serving the church and government (most notably, Nelson Mandela), intervened and provided the crucial financial and infrastructural impetus to salvage the school from the wreck of ecclesiastic decay and establish it as a Section 21 private company. The article explores if and why gender and class dynamics likely played a role in the events leading to the school’s resuscitation. Today, the Seminary is again an extraordinary pioneering school providing quality education to black South African girls.