Roedean South Africa and Roedean in Brighton: Sisters half a world away

Roedean South Africa and Roedean in Brighton: Sisters half a world away

1 May 2018

Seventeen years after Penelope, Millicent, and Dorothy Lawrence founded Roedean in 1885, their younger sister, Theresa, and her friend, Katherine Margaret Earle, set sail to the other side of the world to found a new school, to be known as Roedean South Africa.  It opened on 26 January 1903 with just 22 day pupils and 3 boarders, ranging in ages from 5 to 15.  Today, the school has 850 students on roll, of whom 51 visited Roedean in Brighton as part of a cultural and literary tour of England, along with four members of staff.  They were greeted by the most wonderful day of sunshine, although, for those who are not accustomed to it, the wind was quite blustery in the morning!

In Chapel, students from the two schools, including Ellie, Sophia, and Isabella from Roedean, and Kago from Roedean SA read quotations from letters in the archive.  Two of our visitors also read beautifully in Chapel:  Chiara read a brief history of her school in South Africa, and it was very interesting to hear how similar our two schools are, despite the distance between them, such as sharing our unusual tradition of hand-shaking, and Razeena read one of her own beautiful poems, entitled ‘Don’t Hate Me’, which was an incredibly perceptive and powerful piece about not letting differences between people become obstacles.

The Roedean Senior Singers performed one of the pieces they are singing at the Brighton Festival Fringe concert on 5 May, the Song of Fingal by Brahms, and our visitors treated us to a wonderful a cappella performance of an African prayer entitled Mahlo A Bona Ke Metso – not only was the performance beautiful, but it had a sense of rhythm which seemed to be in the girls’ blood. Listen to an excerpt here:

The day also included an English workshop focusing on creative writing, a tour of the School and boarding houses, and, after lots of photos, hugs, and follower requests on Instagram, the Roedean South Africa girls walked through our ‘secret’ tunnel to the beach.  From there, negotiating their way past spray from the crashing waves at high tide (the only person who got wet was Dr Barrand who was accompanying them in his suit!), they walked to the marina in the glorious sunshine, before going into Brighton for some sight-seeing.

In 1903, one of Roedean South Africa’s first pupils, Ilma E Marx, wrote, ‘I should like to come to England some day, and when I do I will come and see you all at the big Roedean School.  I hope one day our school will be as big as yours.’ – we are delighted to have welcomed 51 of Ilma’s successors 115 years later, and we certainly hope that this will be one of many exchanges and visits in the coming years.

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