The Anglican Institute & Thomas Mapikela Debating Chamber

The Anglican Institution and Thomas Mapikela Debating Chamber

The Anglican Institution was founded as a branch of St Andrew’s College in 1860, after which it became an autonomous school from 1867 until its closure in 1907.  A large number of priests, teachers and civil servants, many of whom became leaders and activists in early political movements, were trained at the school. Several of its alumni including Josiah Gumede, Daniel Letanka, Samuel Masabalala and Thomas Mapikela were founding fathers of the modern South African state. 

The buildings of the Anglican Institution were subsequently purchased by St Andrew’s College. Situated in the gardens behind Graham House is the beautiful stone building that was once the carpentry shop and printing room of the Anglican Institution where many eminent men learnt the art of printing. 

It is critical that we celebrate this chapter of our school history and give credence to the role played by the men of the Anglican Institution to our community and our country. The best tribute we can pay to these renowned men is to restore the old classroom into a Debating Chamber in which the next generation of leaders can grapple with the contemporary issues facing our society and the world. We will also take this opportunity to honour Thomas Mapikela for his enormous contribution to South Africa.

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The Thomas Mapikela Debating Chamber

The political history of 19th and 20th Century is well documented, and black and white communities first confronted each other in the Eastern Cape, often in violent circumstances. Church leaders played a moderating role, especially in the establishment of schools throughout the Eastern Cape, many of which were formative in the development of future leaders of our country. Most of these schools were racially segregated. The Anglican Institution, which was founded as a branch of St Andrew’s College in 1860, was a rare exception where young men of faith, black and white, were educated together. 

At the height of colonial rule, black and white clergymen were prepared for holy orders by Canon John Espin (the Headmaster of St Andrew’s College) and Canon Robert Mullins (the Headmaster of the Anglican Institution). The Anglican Institution then became an autonomous school from 1867 until it closed in 1907 when Canon Mullins retired. The Anglican Institution trained a large number of clergy, teachers and civil servants, many of whom were leaders and activists in early political movements in South Africa. 

Situated in the beautiful grounds behind Graham House is the inconspicuous little stone building that was once part of the Anglican Institution. This building had, over the years, been converted into a sports change room and ablution block. After a generous donation was received from Safika Holdings, we were able to renovate the historical building into a Debating Chamber, and we named it after one of the alumni of the Anglican Institution in the 1880s – Thomas Mapikela. Photographs and memorabilia from the time of the Anglican Institution are exhibited, along with a historical and political timeline, thereby bringing to life this significant part of our heritage at College. 

On the 9th October 2019, Mr Saki Macozoma of Safika Holdings opened the newly renovated Thomas Mapikela Debating Chamber. We were particularly honoured to welcome members of the Mapikela family who travelled from Bloemfontein to share in the celebration of the extraordinary life of Thomas Mapikela. Mr Macozoma gave a moving oration outlining the significance of Thomas Mapikela’s role in the establishment of the ANC, and the organisations that preceded it. In his speech, the Headmaster stressed the importance of College boys continuing to grapple with important current issues through debate and conversation, much like many of the eminent Anglican Institution alumni had done over a century ago.

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