Swaneng Staff

Many different kinds of people became Swaneng ‘staff’, and not all of them were teachers.  Some were local people who were just looking for a job.  Others were refugees – mostly from South Africa – who were forced to look for work outside of their native countries.  A few were hired by development agencies, mostly European, to impart specialist skills.  Many were volunteers, again mostly from Europe. Some were sponsored by agencies like IVS, VSO and ‘War on Want’ from Britain and the Peace Corps from the United States.  Others were sponsored by churches and not a few came without sponsorship and just ‘turned up’.  Philip – ‘Puffer’ – Jones, a Canadian member of the Swaneng ‘staff’, gives his reasons for going to Swaneng.  Most volunteers shared his opinions:-


‘I can’t talk for the motives of all the Volunteers at Swaneng Hill from 1964 – 1967: they were all somewhat different but I am sure that nearly all had a strong belief in the Anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa. So we were not just ordinary volunteers who were there to teach High School – although we did want to do that – but there was a strong political edge to our being there. In Quebec, where I was in 1963, I was very affected by the infamous RIVONIA TRIAL (google the Rivonia Trial and read the Wikipedia article) – this was the trial that sentenced most of the ANC leadership to life imprisonment including Nelson Mandela. With this as a backdrop to my thinking, I determined that I would go to southern Africa and “do something” myself. I read about PvR and the start-up of Swaneng Hill in a Humanist/Rationalist magazine from the UK to which I subscribed. I set about searching for a sponsor to cover my costs and found the UUSC. To sum up, I would talk about:-

  • The political climate in southern Africa in March 1964, and the ongoing Rivonia Trial (Nov. 1963 – June ’64), together with the whole Anti-Apartheid Movement in Europe and North America.
  • How the international volunteers were imbued with the spirit of the above, and were prepared to volunteer their services in that struggle for 1, 2 3 years of work at Swaneng Hill. We all wanted to do something effective to smash Apartheid and to assist southern Africa to be a fully democratic region.’

The following are links to some of the other Staff’s recollections of their time at Swaneng.

*  In ‘Peter Fewster’s Story’ Peter mentions a film that he obtained from War on Want.  He says that he knew the layout of SHS very well when he arrived there because he had seen the film so many times.  I tried to track this film down through War on Want but they have no record of such a film in it’s archives.  Other than the film that Mike Hawkes made, I know of no other film that would have enabled Peter Fewster to learn the layout of SHS as well as he claims.  Finally, there are no stories or recollections, as far as I know, of another film about SHS having been made.  So I can only conclude that the Fewsters had somehow obtained a copy of Mike Hawkes’s film.  See this film on the ‘Swaneng Hill School’ page.  GP.

We have made every effort to make this website accurate but a document of this type is prone to mistakes and omissions, for which we apologise.  If you spot any errors let us know about them by contacting us here :- Contact


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