Inside one of South Africa’s most elite schools

Michaelhouse, one of South Africa’s most prestigious and elite private schools, offers a glimpse into life on the school campus, and the facilities cemented in the ground’s rich history.

“House” is among the top private schools in the country offering boarding only education, with competition coming from it’s close neighbour, Hilton College, which is also situated in the KwaZulu Natal midlands.

According to research conducted by BusinessTech, Michaelhouse is listed as the second most expensive school in the country, behind Hilton – with annual fees of around R210,000 vs Hilton’s R220,000 fee – and carries with it a rich history and sense of prestige.

Notable alumni from the school include a number of prominent businessmen, sportsmen and scholars, including Springbok rugby player, Pat Lambie;  Assore chairman, Desmond Sacco; and novelist, Johan van der Ruit, who documented his time at the school through the book, Spud.

Michaelhouse Building
Michaelhouse Building
Michaelhouse Surroundings
Michaelhouse Surroundings
Michaelhouse School hall
Michaelhouse Chapel

Founded in 1896 by Anglican Priest, Canon James Cameron Todd in Loop Street in Pietermaritzburg, Michaelhouse is also one of the oldest schools in South Africa.

Back when it first opened, it was home to only 15 boys. By 1901, 77 boys migrated by train and ox wagon to its current location in Balgowan.

“In 1901 things were tough: no running water or electricity and the boys had largely to grow their own food,” a school spokesman said.

Today, the school is home to around 560 pupils, separated into eight houses, that newest of which was occupied in 1994. Staff also reside on the school property in a staff village.

Michaelhouse Room
Michaelhouse Room
Michaelhouse Games
Michaelhouse Games
Michaelhouse Dining hall
Michaelhouse Dining hall
Michaelhouse Boarding
Michaelhouse Boarding

It offers a multitude of academic, cultural and sporting facilities, and is known as one of the most prestigious and elite – and expensive – schools in South Africa.

In terms of its academic facilities, the school says it has enough classrooms, equipped with interactive smart board technology, to allow for an average teacher/pupil ratio of 1:10.

Michaelhouse Library
Michaelhouse Library
Michaelhouse Lab
Michaelhouse Lab
Michaelhouse Computer Lab
Michaelhouse Computer Lab
Michaelhouse Class
Michaelhouse Class

The school also features two fully integrated IT/AV lecture theatres; a fully equipped media centre; and an outdoor learning facility in the school’s nature reserve.

For more cultural activities, there’s a fully equipped theatre auditorium; a 1,500+ seat open air amphitheatre and a 600 seat open air amphitheatre; and a fully equipped visual arts and music school, with recording studio facilities.

The school highlighted a rich sporting history, with sports development in cricket (since 1903), hockey (1928) and rugby (1897) being established at the school for over a century.

Soccer was formally introduced in the 1990s, after making a “tentative debut” in the 80s.

Today the school offers significantly more in terms of its sports facilities, including:

  • 3 indoor and 1 outdoor basketball courts
  • 3 glass backed championship and 3 standard squash courts
  • 6 hard surface tennis courts
  • 2 heated swimming pools and one year round training lane
  • Driving range with synthetic putting green and driving nets
  • 1 water based hockey astroturf
  • 8 turf cricket pitches (indoor and outdoor nets)
  • 10 rugby/ soccer/ hockey fields
  • 1 indoor and 1 outdoor climbing wall
  • 1.5ha Dam for canoeing and canoe polo
  • Fully equipped gymnasium with sports scientist in attendance
Michaelhouse Field
Michaelhouse Field
Michaelhouse Gym
Michaelhouse Gym
Basketball court
Basketball court
Canoeing
Canoeing
Squash court
Squash court
Swimming pool
Swimming pool

(Images courtesy of Michaelhouse, additional images courtesy of the Michaelhouse Digital Archive)

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Inside one of South Africa’s most elite schools