In 1658, the first school for slave children was started by Pieter van Stael, the local sick comforter and brother-in-law of the first Dutch commander, Jan van Riebeeck. The main aims of the school were to teach the children Dutch and the Christian religion. This school did not last for long.
Another attempt to establish a school was made in 1685, after the slaves were moved to the Slave Lodge. Children from the Lodge younger than 12 attended the school while children between the ages of 12 and 16 attended school two afternoons a week for religious instruction.
The boys and girls were taught separately. Religious instruction was heavily emphasised, but the children also learned to read and write Dutch. Teaching the qualities of a good slave from the owner’s perspective such as obedience and respect, were not neglected either. All the children in the Lodge attended school during its 110 year existence. In stark contrast, according to the 1778 census, only 11.1% of free children and 5.3% of enslaved children in private ownership received formal education.
The teachers at the school were slaves, convicts and free blacks (a term used for black people who were neither enslaved nor of indigenous origin). The first two teachers were Jan Pasqual for the boys and Margaret, a freed slave, for the girls. Jan was exiled to Mauritius less than two years later after being found guilty of immoral acts with the boys. The appointment of Daniel of Batavia as school principal in 1706 also ruffled a few feathers as he was a convict and black.
Several school teachers applied with success to be manumitted. Persena van de Caab received his freedom in 1724, Jan van Manda in 1731, Anna van Jacoba in 1764 and Hans Jacob Jurgen van die Caab in 1774. It seems as if the position of school teacher was a profitable occupation as they were the only group of slaves that were willing to stay on in the Lodge after being manumitted. All teachers, including those who were slaves, received a salary.
Depiction of the probable position of a school for slave boys on the plan of the slave lodge. Today this area is close to the entrance hall of the Iziko Slave Lodge.
The school for slave girls was positioned close to the (then) front facade of the slave lodge, today this is the back exhibition space of the Iziko Slave Lodge.