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History of the college

Lovedale TVET College has a long and prestigious story to tell in the history of education in South Africa. Although the institution has changed shape and direction many times over the years, it has nonetheless remained an educational institution that has always had the interests of the surrounding community at heart.

Today, the Lovedale TVET College consists of three campuses, each one addressing particular needs of the community. The history of the College is tied up in the history of each of its campuses: Alice Campus, in the little town of Alice in the Eastern Cape and the site of the original Lovedale, King Campus in King William’s Town, and Zwelitsha Campus, also in King William’s Town.

The history of the college is detailed in a chronological order according to three campuses mentioned above:

Alice Campus

The Alice Campus of Lovedale TVET College is the site of the original and well-known Lovedale College, which has left a legacy of education and training excellence in South Africa.

Lovedale started as a mission station in 1824, on the Tyume River in Alice. John Bennie of the Glasgow Missionary Society of Scotland founded Lovedale through the influence of Dr John Love, after whom it was named.

In 1838 a small dwelling and church school were established at the mission station and by 1838 the school had 132 pupils. The educational institution of Lovedale was officially opened on 21 July 1841.

The first principal was Rev. William Govan, after whom Govan Mbeki, former leader of the African National Congress, was named.

The institution concentrated on “industrial” training at first, namely agriculture, masonry, carpentry, blacksmithing, and wagon making. In 1855 a building was erected for the trades department. In 1861 the trade of printing and bookmaking was also introduced, becoming the forerunner to the well-known Lovedale Press. Agriculture was established with the building of a canal in 1939 from the Tyume River to irrigate the rich soils. This canal still exists on the site.

The Rev. William Govan died on 4 November 1875 at the age of 72. Rev. Dr James Stewart followed him as principal. Stewart brought a whole new approach to education. Govan believed that Black people could best be elevated by the higher education of a few, whilst Stewart believed in the education of many.

His strategy was:

  • To train preachers
  • To train teachers
  • To train tradesman
  • General education

In 1883 an Assembly Hall was built which could seat 700 people. This building burnt down in 1924 but was rebuilt in “almost exactly the same form”. This building is presently the main administration building. In 1898 the Victoria Hospital was built on the premises, one of Stewart’s favourite schemes.

Rev. Dr James Stewart died on 21 December 1905 and was buried on Sandile’s Kop, overlooking Lovedale, where a memorial in the shape of a lighthouse was erected.

Rev. Dr James Henderson followed Stewart as principal. He took forward the Inter-State College, an idea of Dr Stewart of an institution for higher education that would eventually develop into a university.

The Inter-State College which would ultimately develop into Fort Hare University was officially opened by General Louis Botha on 8 February 1916 and classes commenced on 22 February 1916, with 20 students in two old houses at Lovedale.

TheHenderson died on 18 July 1930 and like Stewart, was buried on Sandile’s Kop.

Dr Wilkie followed him. He formed the Lovedale Bible School In April of 1932. He also forged ahead with the Lovedale Press by consolidating the four departments of printing, bookbinding, retail and wholesale in one organisation, the Lovedale Press. By 1939 it was publishing 128 000 books per year, encouraging and assisting many African writers.

During his period of office, the following were introduced at Lovedale:

  • Lovedale High School
  • A training school for teachers
  • A practising school
  • A girls’ school (introducing subjects such as Housekeeping, Sewing and Cooking)
  • More trades such as basket-making, poultry farming, book-keeping, shoemaking, tree-planting, agriculture, horticulture, fur-ware, nursing, telegraphing, rug-making etc.
  • Staff housing, water and a sanitation scheme
  • By 1936 he had transformed a Press building for the Lovedale Press a “microcosm of complex South Africa”. The 950 students at that time included Africans, Whites, Coloureds and Indians as well as African students from all over the African continent.

In 1941 Wilkie retired, by which time Lovedale had 1265 students. Rev. Dr Robert Shepard followed him as principal.

During his term of office, the Lovedale Press grew to its zenith of publishing 530 000 books during the year of 1953.

Industrial training was also extended to include more modern subjects such as motor mechanics, plumbing etc.

The year 1955 was the last year of missionary control of Lovedale, as it became a state institution through the Bantu Education Act of 1952.

However, the Lovedale Bible School and Lovedale Press continued to remain under missionary control.

Lovedale continued as an educational institution under various government education departments until it was closed in 1979 by the former Ciskei Government. After realising the importance of the rich history of Lovedale, the same Ciskei government which closed the institution reopened it as a college for continuing education. The poorly qualified Ciskei teachers were sent to Lovedale for further training.

Some of the better known figures who studied at Lovedale are:

  • former president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki
  • former Premier of the Eastern Cape, Ms Nosimo Balindlela
  • Z.K. Mathews
  • George M Theal, a well-known historian
  • Rev. Tiyo Soga, well known for his Xhosa hymns and the translation of the Bible into Xhosa
  • John Knox Bokwe, a well-known minister of religion and musician
  • a political activist, leader Black Consiousness Movement, Steve Biko
  • former leader of the South African Communist Party, Chris Hani
  • the former president of the South African Cricket Board, Ray Mali and many others.
King Campus

King Campus is located on the south side of the Buffalo River in King William’s Town, 60km north-east of East London and south from Alice. The college was originally erected in the 1800s as a mission station by Reverend Brownlee and was known as the Brownlee Mission Station. Although many of the original buildings were destroyed in the Frontier Wars, some can still be seen on the campus in a renovated condition. A cannon was placed on the grounds in commemoration of the Frontier Wars.

The technical college that developed over the years from the original mission officially amalgamated with East London Technical College on 1 January 1989 but did not operate on the current school grounds as the Excelsior School was occupying the premises. When this school finally closed down the college moved to the premises where it is situated today. The official inauguration took place on 11 May 1992.

In 1992 the college, still operating as a branch of the East London College, had grown to the extent that the number of full time students totalled 103 from a mere 31. The number of staff had increased from only one administrative assistant, five full-time lecturers and two part-time lecturers in 1989, to two administrative assistants, five full-time lecturers and 14 part-time lecturers in 1992.

Zwelitsha Campus

In 1855 the governor of the Cape, Sir George Grey, proposed the establishment of full-time industrial courses at Lovedale: the departments of masonry, carpentry and wagon-making and blacksmithing were established in 1856 with the purpose of training apprentices.

With the emergence of the motor industries in the Eastern Cape, wagon-making was gradually phased out and motor vehicles became the main mode of transport. Lovedale then introduced motor mechanics.

The change from missions to the Cape Department of Education under the Bantu Education Act of 1952 had far-reaching implications for missionary institutions such as Lovedale. In terms of the act, the College fell under the ambit of the former Ciskei homeland. In 1972 the vocational section of Lovedale was relocated from Alice to Zwelitsha (King William’s Town) to operate as a technical college for the Ciskei under the separate development policy. The new college, offering only mechanical engineering and carpentry, was named Zwelethemba Technical College. The staff consisted of 2 lecturers and a principal.

The Bantu Education syllabi were followed up until 1978, when the National Technical Education courses (N courses) were introduced. Practical courses were combined with relevant trade theories and subjects such as mathematics, science and drawing. External exams were now performed by the Department of Education.

Lovedale College changes in name

In 2002, when 152 technical colleges throughout the country were merged into 52 mega-colleges, Lovedale Public FET College was formed by the merger of the three above mentioned institutions.

Colleges were placed under the Department of Higher Education in 2015 and once again changed their names from Further Education and Training (FET) to Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Colleges.