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A diamond in the rough: The Deutsche Schule Hermannsburg

| March 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

The Deutsche Schule Hermannsburg (DSH) is situated in the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Midlands, on the R74, which connects the coast (Stanger) with the Winterton mountains forming part of the majestic central Drakensberg range.1 The nearest town is Greytown.

A rural area

It’s a breathtakingly beautiful part of the country, but remote, which can cause problems, says the DSH’s public relations (PR) officer, Stella Cockburn. Theft of telephone cables, for example, is a common and exasperating problem, which could potentially cut the school off from the outside world. Whilst the DSH is a resolute community and the key towns in the area – Greytown and Kranskop – are home to two state schools that offer a good education, in between, plenty of families suffer because, says Cockburn, “the rural schools are battling.” The DSH does its best to strengthen its relationship with all schools in the area, says Cockburn. “Sport is the best way to do this.”

Several unique facets

The DSH’s remote location is part of its charm, Cockburn believes. “Our German/Lutheran heritage also makes us different and unique, and the fact that we are a boarding school.”

Those children who fall under the spell of the school’s beauty can take German as a subject. In addition, at the DSH, music is just as important as sport, stresses Cockburn. Added bonuses include a Grade 10 visit to Germany during the July holidays and the annual inclusion of the DSH pupils in the KZN Youth Choir, which competes internationally (the last trip was to Italy). These trips provide opportunities for ongoing cultural exchange throughout the year.

Of course, the vastness of the KZN Midlands lends itself to many different club activities with an environmentally friendly focus. The schools also has its own enviro-quiz team, which has won the national finals of the WESSA-Mondi Enviro-quiz 13 times.2

A landscape this vast could be home to thousands of pupils, but the DSH is famous for its intimate family-like atmosphere, where 240 students from grades RRR to matric pass out the academic year, nurtured by 30 teachers. “It’s a healthy cultural mix,” smiles Cockburn.

Like other German schools in South Africa, the DSH is quick to emphasise that everyone – whether German or not – is welcome if they pass the appropriate entrance examinations. A more streamlined, focused sports programme has attracted many new students, as has the more established music department.

Living in the ‘wilds’ of the Midlands enables the school to boast truthfully about its consistently good academic results. “Many past pupils have gone out into the world and made a difference in a wide variety of fields, but we are even prouder perhaps of the students who have come to us with a mediocre academic track record, who have managed to boost their performance in this caring environment.”

Another unique feature of the DSH is its policy of ‘banking’ public holidays. “This means we can have meaningful mid-term breaks and sometimes longer (much-needed) holidays. We celebrate special Christian festivals (such as Advent and Ascension Day) by incorporating the festivities into our school days.”

Independent, with a focus on the future

Being independent means that DSH can choose which examinations the students will write (they have opted for the Independent Examinations Board). Further, a strong relationship with a certain church is just as crucial as belonging to ISASA, which the DSH joined in 1999.

Being a ‘country school’ doesn’t mean that the DSH isn’t planning for a global future. “We want to diversify our subject combinations to enable students to include all the things that interest them in their study programmes. We also want to educate our current and potential client bases about our language policies and the advantages of our German connections,” explains Cockburn.

The DSH is always eager to network – an advantage of being an ISASA school – affirms Cockburn, who adds: “Hermannsburg is a wonderful place to be – as a staff member as well as a student. The idyllic country setting allows for uninterrupted learning to take place.

“There is something very special to be said about the pupils who attend and leave this ISASA school. They enter the big wide world with a good dose of self-confidence, a mindful attitude towards their fellow humans and a healthy respect for the environment, whilst having been able to explore and experience the spiritual strength that can be gained from a sound Christian foundation.”


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Category: Autumn 2014

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