Top Anglican school faces closure to pave way for mall

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ACL Bishop Adam Mallane Taaso
ACL Bishop Adam Mallane Taaso

Keiso Mohloboli

St Catherine’s (Girls) High School faces demolition to pave way for a shopping complex to be named after a South African Anglican Church cleric, the Lesotho Times has learnt.

The highly regarded Maseru-based boarding school is owned by the Anglican Church of Lesotho (ACL) and also offers special education for the blind.

According to ACL insiders, the fate of the school was discussed during a meeting the Diocesan Council held with developers last year in Maseru.

The developers, according to the sources, indicated the site was ideal for a mall because of its proximity to residential areas and two major tertiary institutions—Limkokwing and Fokothi.

The church is said to be exploring additional sources of revenue to fund its ever-increasing overheads, hence the suggestion to build the mall.   A final decision on whether or not to demolish the school established in the 1940s as a teachers’ training college, had not been made, the sources added.

“The meeting in question suggested that if the school is closed, the students could be relocated to ACL St James High School which is also here in Maseru. But the issue which presented some problems was what happens to the boarders and the school’s blind students since St James does not have boarding facilities and special education,” one of the sources said.

Head of the ACL, Archbishop Mallane Taaso, confirmed the meeting in question but insisted a decision had not yet been reached on the issue. Archbishop Taaso also said the idea to close St Catherine’s High School came during a church meeting with independent developers.

“I can’t tell you when the meeting was held but only that the ACL Diocesan Council and ACL Draft Board had invited independent developers to assist with business ideas that could help the church establish income-generating projects,” Archbishop Taaso said this week.

“It was in that meeting where one of the developers came up with the suggestion of demolishing St Catherine’s High School, and building a shopping complex there because the area seemed to be an excellent commercial hub.

“It must be clear that it was just a suggestion not a decision and that it is still an internal matter to be dealt with by relevant stakeholders. Closing down a school such as St Catherine’s would not just happen overnight because there are special education facilities for the blind there, as well as the boarding school.

“If a decision had already been reached, the school management would have  been asked to engage parents and prepare the students for the serious change. But since the issue was still at discussion stage, nobody else was informed about it.”

ACL spokesperson David Sengoai also told the Lesotho Times it was premature to talk about the school facing closure.

“Even though the ACL Diocesan Council and ACL Draft Board bought the idea to develop that place into a shopping mall, it is premature and irresponsible for people to start saying the school is going to be closed,” Mr Sengoai said.

“Depending on Sunday contributions to run the church’s activities has not been easy and one way or the other, we have to develop that place to give the church better income. The church is aware it will be a process to achieve this because before demolishing St Catherine’s, the site where the school will be relocated needs to be developed first. The church would also have to first look for funding and investors for the mall.”

On her part, St Catherine’s High School principal, ‘Mamtsheki Tshabalala, yesterday said: “I don’t know what you are talking about because the manager of the school has not said anything to me.

“What I can only say is that the school is still open, students and teachers are still coming here and nothing had been said either to me or to them.”

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