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Waterford Kamhlaba Background

Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa is a remarkable and pioneering secondary school based in Mbabane, Swaziland. For almost 50 years it has provided exceptional opportunities for academic achievement, personal growth and leadership development for students from across southern Africa and beyond.

Founded in 1963 with just 16 students, Southern Africa’s first multiracial school has successfully demonstrated that students thrive and excel in a non-racial environment, educated side by side on equal terms. The school has grown to accommodate 601 students, and its earliest ideals of courage, leadership, equality, personal responsibility and academic excellence remain at its core.

In its early days, Waterford educated former South African president Nelson Mandela’s daughters, as well as the children of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and anti-apartheid activist and African National Congress stalwart Walter Sisulu.

Today, many of the school’s students are all too familiar with Africa’s current challenges: poverty, conflict, HIV/AIDS and a damaged society with a high proportion of orphaned young people.

An Exceptional Education

Waterford Kamhlaba offers education to Forms 1 to 5, with Form 5 sitting the International General Certificate of Secondary Educationqualification, followed by two years dedicated to the International Baccalaureate (IB). In the IB years, our students are joined by young people from around the world, selected through the United World College movement, of which we are a member.

Waterford Kamhlaba’s academic reputation is exceptional and unique in Africa. IB students achieve an average of about 34 points, which the British university admissions system equates to more than four A grades at A-level.

Of the 2010 IB class, students applied to seven of the eight Ivy League institutions in the US, and Harvard, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth and Brown all made awards to Waterford Kamhlaba students. All graduating bursary students in November 2010 received full scholarships to continue with their tertiary education in 2011. History suggests that the majority return to Africa after their studies, or at some stage during their careers, and play a vital part in the development and growth of the continent. Many Waterford Kamhlaba alumni hold senior business, political and community positions.

Through the generosity of American philanthropist Shelby Davies, students of limited financial means are able to attend US universities on full scholarships. A Waterford Kamhlaba education therefore unlocks access to tertiary education without cost for our most disadvantaged students. By funding a two-year IB course, a donor typically unlocks full funding for a further four years of tertiary education for our bursary students.

Student Body

The student body of nearly 601 is drawn from 50 countries worldwide. More than 80% of the students are African, representing 25 countries, including Ethiopia, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Burundi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Botswana and, of course, Swaziland.

Waterford Kamhlabaselects its students on the basis of past performance and future potential, not ability to pay. Our bursary programme funds 139 financially disadvantaged African students to attend the school, including 11 from Johannesburg’s impoverished township of Alexandra and 31 gifted students from SOS Children’s Villages in Africa, an organisation that caters to the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children. A further 38 students are selected from countries beyond Africa, most of whom are on scholarships sourced in their own countries. About 60% of Waterford Kamhlabastudents are boarders.

The school provides a supportive community to those from afar and from difficult home circumstances, as well as for those from more stable circumstances who are seeking a high-quality education. It is a central tenet of the Waterford Kamhlaba experience that all students live side by side with others from a wide range of life experiences, and in the process gain a greater sense of tolerance, mutual respect and understanding of a range of cultures.

Community Involvement

A core part of Waterford’s curriculum is the community service programme, through which every student takes part in activities, in partnership with local organisations, which benefit some of the most disadvantaged communities in Swaziland.

About 25 projects tackle a wide range of issues, including HIV education, counselling and testing, TB education, maths support for orphans at the local SOS Children’s Village, hearing and sight testing, environmental projects, clean water initiatives and care for disabled young people living in a ward of the government hospital. Community service takes place in different ways throughout the school and is a core part of the IB curriculum.

The community service programme incorporates leadership training and teamwork, instilling the belief that individuals can make a difference. It offers practical guidance in real-life situations and engenders an attitude of open-mindedness and flexibility in students, who learn that they can find ways to work with what we have and do better.



Waterford Kamhlaba strives to lay the foundations for its graduates to become responsible citizens of Africa and of the world, creating a network of people with the intellectual skills, broad outlook and sense of purpose to provide leadership to this and future generations.


Waterford School was opened on a mountainside site on the edge of Mbabane, Swaziland, in 1963 by British founding head teacher Michael Stern, OBE. In 1967 His Majesty King Sobhuza II, Ngwenyama of Swaziland, granted the title “Kamhlaba”, eloquently describing Waterford’s culturally rich and diverse community thus: “We are all of the earth, which does not see differences of colour, religion or race. We are ‘kamhlaba’ – all of one world.”

United World Colleges

In 1981 Waterford Kamhlaba joined the United World Colleges (UWC) movement. UWC is a movement of 13 colleges worldwide, all sharing a common mission: “UWC makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future”.

UWC students join the school for the two-year IB programme. Of the IB student body, about 75% are drawn from Africa, with 25% coming via the UWC national committee structure, which operates in more than 120 countries to select and support students of promise who share the UWC ideals. The school’s principal and chair serve on the UWC Council.


The school has a voluntary board, the Governing Council, which has 19 members who meet three times a year to oversee the sound management of the school. The principal, who reports to Governing Council, leads the school.

There are currently three fundraising boards with formal charitable/not-for-profit status in their own countries that exist primarily to raise funds for Waterford Kamhlaba. They are the Waterford School Trust in the UK, the Waterford Kamhlaba Foundation of South Africa and the American Friends of Waterford Kamhlaba in the US.

All three organisations work under the leadership of Waterford’s director of development.


The school operates on a not-for-profit basis, independent of government or other bodies. Its turnover in 2010 will be around ZAR44 million (£4 million), with an income based on fees charged and donations secured through fundraising. Each year, the school must raise about ZAR7 million (£635 000) to fund its African Bursary Fund.

The school employs 55 teaching staff and a further nine administrative staff.

Former Students

  • Firoz Cachalia – Member of the Executive Council, Gauteng Province, South Africa, holding the Economic Development and Planning portfolio
  • Monwabisi Fandeso – CEO of Thebe Tourism Group, previous chair of Shell SA
  • Richard E Grant – Actor and director
  • Xolile Guma – Senior Deputy Governor, South African Reserve Bank
  • Ian Khama – President of Botswana
  • Colleen Lowe Morna – Founding CEO of the South African Commission on Gender Equality
  • Treasure Maphanga – Chief, Office for Africa, International Trade Centre, Geneva
  • Mike Matsebula – CEO, Swaziland Sugar Association
  • Mike Muller – Professor of Public and Development Management at the University of the Witwatersrand, previously Director General, Department of Water Affairs, South Africa
  • Matthew Parris – Author and columnist, The Times, London
  • Lindiwe Sisulu – Minister of Defence, South Africa


Waterford Kamhlaba works in partnership with a number of organisations in Africa to identify and select students of ability and potential. These include:

  • SOS Children’s Villages in Ethiopia, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland
  • The Alexandria Education Committee, South Africa
  • The Capernaum Trust in Zimbabwe, Burundi and Lesotho
  • Mpakha Refugee Camp, Swaziland


“Through the generosity of others, my children and grandchildren enjoyed the benefits of a Waterford education. It is my hope that through the provision of funding for bursaries, children will be able to experience the freedom that education brings.”Nelson Mandela, former Waterford parent and grandparent

“Any of you who were wondering whether you wanted to write out cheques, know that you are investing in an outstanding institution that has produced some quite remarkable human beings.”Desmond Tutu, former Waterford parent

Support Us

Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa can only continue its pioneering and exceptional educational mission with the generous support of others. We need your help.

Contact Details

Director of Development

Waterford Kamhlaba
United World College of Southern Africa

Tel: (+268) 2551 6263 or (268) 2422 1215

Mobile phone: (+268) 7602 6890