TIGER KLOOF – A BRIEF HISTORY
In the middle of the 19th century the London Missionary Society had founded a school at the Moffat Mission in Kuruman, but this school had struggled to take off and was eventually closed.
In 1895 Kgosi (Chief) Khama III, Kgosi Bathoen and Kgosi Sebele visited Queen Victoria and Lord Chamberlain in London, in an effort to convince them not to incorporate British Bechuanaland (modern day Botswana) into the Cape Colony (part of the modern day South Africa). They were accompanied by a young Rev. W.C. Willoughby, a missionary then working amongst the Batswana. The Batswana wanted a good education for their sons and had approached the London Missionary Society to establish a school in Bechuanaland. After several attempts, delayed by the Anglo-Boer War, the Institution was finally established at Tiger Kloof, alongside Cecil Rhodes' Cape to Cairo railway, which still runs through the school.
1904 - Reverend William Charles Willoughby and his wife Bessie arrive on the banks of the Dryharts River, 10 km south of Vryburg.
The aim of the original LMS Tiger Kloof Native Institution according to Rev. Willoughby, was “The equipment of an African ministry for an African Church. …And the first work of Tiger Kloof is to train their ministers in true leadership, knowledge, and spiritual vision.” Secondly the Institution wanted to train African schoolmasters and schoolmistresses for African schools and to educate the sons and daughters of the comparatively high-born and wealthy natives so that their public opinion should be essentially Christian. Lastly they also wanted to train the men as craftsmen and teach the women skilled work.
FIRST THREE PRINCIPALS
Rev. Willoughby 1904-14. During his time the Institution took root and various buildings and structures were erected.
Rev. Arthur Haile 1915-45. Various buildings, roads and sports fields were constructed. The Girls’ School envisaged during Willoughby’s time became a reality and the Arthington memorial church was built by masonry apprentices of the Institution itself.
The training school for teachers was built and an annex added later on. An isolation hospital and water reservoirs were added and cattle kraals built. A visiting medical doctor served the school and a nurse worked and stayed on campus. A Bible school was started and African ministers trained and sent out to work in surrounding areas and further afield.
At its height the Institution comprised nine different training schools on one campus. Extra-mural activities at the girls’ school included Wayfarers (they were not allowed to call themselves Girl Guides), First Aid, choir, and athletics. The boys’ school had tennis, a brass band, athletics, soccer, and cricket.
The Prince of Wales and The King both paid a visit to the Institution during Haile’s time and the King’s Jubilee was also celebrated.
Rev. Aubrey Lewis 1945-55. During his time a few more buildings were added and changes made to the training offered at the school. A highlight that occurred during his time was when electricity finally came to the Institution in 1952! The Institution also boasted rugby and boxing clubs.
Sadly the days of the LMS involvement at Tiger Kloof were numbered after the infamous Bantu Education Act was passed in 1953. At the end of 1955 the LMS withdrew from the Institution and Rev. Lewis resigned.
Mr. S.M. Smithen 1956-63, formerly the Principal of the Training school, now became the Principal of the Institution that was handed over to the Cape Provincial Education department. After much unrest and rioting, the Institution finally closed its doors at the end of 1962.
Contracts were given out for the destruction of the buildings and many were torn down: the African staff village, the academic school, the remainder of the Boys’ dormitories, the tannery and boot-making department, the isolation hospital, the carpentry building and the girls’ school staff house.
The other buildings either lay fallow or were used as sheep pens, stores or farmhouses.
WELL KNOWN OLD TIGERS
Sir Seretse Khama, first president of Botswana, was a student at Tiger Kloof from 1935-8
Sir Quett Masire, president of Botswana 1980-98, was a student in the 1940’s.
Dr. Ruth Segomotsi Mompati, Nelson Mandela’s secretary in the 1950’, leader of the ANC women in exile and Mayor of Vryburg 2005-11, was at Tiger Kloof 1940-44
Mr. David Matthews, who had been the headmaster of Maru-a-Pula school in Botswana, became intrigued by the buildings standing empty next to the road on the way to Kimberley and in 1991 he started to investigate and set the ball rolling to have the Institution reopened.
In 1995 the Institution reopened amidst great celebrations, led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with a group of 25 grade 8 learners. Subjects offered were only academic and for children of school-going age.
Soccer and cricket fields, tennis, netball and basketball courts were added in 1996. In the same year new hostels were built for boys and girls as well as technical and maintenance workshops. A brand new Media Centre was built on the site of the Boys’ dormitories and opened in 1999.
Mrs. Karen Gail du Toit became the second principal of the modern day school when Mr. Matthews took up the position of Rector in January 2000. The school became a member of the International Round Square movement in 2002 and since then has sent learner and teacher representatives to Regional and International Conferences, as well as rendering service in the communities around Vryburg.
Mr. Peter Habberton became the second Rector in June 2002.
In 2003 the Primary school was started under the leadership of Mrs. Jacquie Habberton. The old Girls’ school hostel and classrooms were renovated and from 2009/10 has housed the Primary School.
Since 1995 all the land that belonged to LMS has been returned to Tiger Kloof with the final handover in 2004, the year of the Institution’s centenary.
A farm was then established with indigenous Nguni cattle, with a view to training children and adults in sustainable farming methods and providing food for the school kitchens.
In 2007 the computer room and junior and senior science laboratories were built. A history club, the Tigorians, was established and has helped to set up a Museum dedicated to the history of the Institution.
In 2015 the old girls' dining hall was renovated and renamed the Old Tigers' Hall. Apart from being used for assemblies, conferences and functions it is decorated with many pictures of the old Tigers who went on to lead Botswana and play a major role in the struggle for freedom in South Africa.
Mr. John Zackarias became the third principal of the modern day Tiger Kloof in January 2010.
Mr. Mark Boobbyer became the third rector when he took up the position in July 2012.
Mrs. Karen Gail du Toit became the fourth director in 2018.