Penryn College is situated among bushveld trees on Boschrand ridge overlooking Nelspruit and the Crocodile River Valley in Mpumalanga, South Africa. In this place of beauty and hope, you can see forever, and Penryn’s scholars embrace an ethos of holism that requires them to be excellent at something and good at many things.
The College started as the result of a decision, following a presentation by the Head of St Stithians College in Johannesburg at a Council Meeting in 1989, to establish “a substantial and effective outreach programme” in the Lowveld. Mr David Wylde, Head of St Stithians, had long cherished the vision. The Lowveld was chosen for two reasons: the need in rural schools was desperate and there were many outreach programmes in Johannesburg and, fortuitously, Mr Bill Carter, Vice-Chairman of the St Stithians Council, had contact with the late Dr Enos Mabuza, then Chief Minister of KaNgwane and a St Stithians parent, who motivated the case for the Lowveld. Dr Simeon Ripinga, then education minister of KaNgwane was tasked with moving the idea forward in the community and a meeting was arranged at St Stithians College between Ripinga, Carter, Peter Laburn, members of St Stithians Council, David and Ingrid Wylde. Mr Robbie Williams, a previous member of the St Stithians Council, was appointed as the first Chairman of the Penryn Trust.
The vision was to establish a ‘model school’ and the search for a suitable site began. Robin Cox (St Stithians Outreach co-ordinator), David Gear, and Dr Lynn Hurry investigated many sites in the former KaNgwane before the present centrally-situated site with its magnificent vistas was selected through the generous assistance of Dr Rob Snaddon of Hall & Sons and the first Chairman of the Penryn College Council. The name of the school was a result of market research and the College badge was adapted from the St Stithians badge with symbolism from Cornwall, where the founders of St Stithians were born in the villages of Stythian and Penryn. Penryn in Cornish means ‘the light on the hill.’ The long-crested eagle outline over the badge symbolises the rural outreach character of the institution in the bushveld.
The vision became a reality in the Plaston Church hall with a small Grade 1 class in 1991, under the warm and enthusiastic guidance of Mrs Susanna Oosthuizen, the first teacher. In 1993 Mr Roger Cameron was appointed as the first Headmaster of Penryn College. He supervised the establishment and growth of the school on its present site. By 1994 the outreach component started to grow very rapidly with funding from SAPPI, so the independent school, Penryn College, and the outreach function, Penreach, were separated and Heather ‘Mamkhulu’ Stephens was appointed as the first full-time director, succeeded by Phutumile Dumisa. Penreach is now a community initiative reaching withover 479832, educators, learners, HOD, principals and circuit manager from partner schools benefitting from comprehensive programme workshops and school visits.
Cementing further the relationship with St Stithians, Mr John Lees, Headmaster at St Stithians Preparatory School (1991-1996), became the Headmaster of the Penryn Preparatory School in 1997. Mr Greg Theron, who had also been on the staff of St Stithians before he took over from Roger Cameron, became the second Headmaster of Penryn College in 1999.
The College now has over 1,000 co-educational scholars and 5 boarding facilities, and has become a beacon of light in the Lowveld. Penryn is about partnerships, between families and scholars and the College, between Penreach and partner schools, and with the broader community of South Africa, including, other NGOs, government, private and corporate donors. Penreach is entirely donor funded and has no impact on the fee structure of Penryn.
In the foundations of the Chapel, a bible was encased as a reminder that the institutions are founded on Christian principles. Trust that was placed in God has meant that the Founders’ hope has been far exceeded by the success of Penryn as an institution of excellence and the contribution of Penreach to the broader community.
The Penryn Trust, currently chaired by Jacques Celliers, CEO of RMB and Penryn Council, now chaired by James Aling, Director of Mbombela Place Management, looks out to a future filled with more hope, and with anticipation both for the learners of Penryn College and the Penreach communities.
In the words of one of our first Grade 12 in 1998:
“When I came to Penryn, it was to be the start of a whole new life, and a whole new me.”