St Charles College Boarding - Private Boarding School in Pietermaritzburg


For some, where boarding school is a practical necessity and where school is very far from home, boarding provides a way for scholars to attend their school of choice. For others, boarding is an experience and a chance for learning beyond the classroom. For all boarders, boarding represents an opportunity to cultivate life-long friendships, develop independence and make the most of all school programmes.

It is possible for aspects of boarding to be homely, but boarding is fundamentally different to life at home in many respects. Boarding presents your boy with learning opportunities that are not presented at home, and it is our experience that boarders who involve themselves in all aspects of the school programme will gain the most from their stay in our Boarding Establishment.

At St Charles College, our boarding is age specific. Whilst our prep boarders share one house, senior school boarders live amongst their peers per grade. This system supports a nurturing, age-appropriate focus per year and certainly mitigates inter-grade bullying often found in other boarding systems. It also develops the boys into very tight-knit groups during their collective tenure in boarding.

“What we must look for here is, firstly religious and moral principals; secondly gentlemanly conduct; thirdly intellectual ability.” – Thomas Arnold


Boarding for Primary School Students

Pennefather House is a historical building customised to create a bespoke, safe environment for our Prep Boarders that provides boys with a degree of privacy without leaving them feeling isolated or alone. Boys from Grades 4 – 7 are accommodated in the same double-storey house. The boys’ beds and lockers are upstairs and common rooms and communal spaces are located downstairs, spilling out onto an age-appropriate garden and play area.

Our housemaster resides in his home which is connected to the boarding house and four junior staff members reside upstairs in an adjoining flat. This team ensures that help, guidance and oversight are within constant and easy reach. Homework is supervised by boarding staff at the end of each day in the homework room within Pennefather House.

As part of a through-school, our Senior Primary boys enjoy the space and facilities available to the entire school while closely monitored by staff, who provide routine and control specific to the needs of younger boys.

The Sanatorium/Sickbay is positioned less than fifty metres from our Prep Boarding House and there is a school nurse on duty, 24 hours every day. For serious medical conditions, there are two private hospitals within five kilometres of the school.

Prep boarders enjoy three meals a day in a dining room, shared with senior school boarders. A boarder master sits with boarders for all meals and boys’ eating habits are watched closely. Prep boarders are only allowed access to their cell phones for thirty minutes every day and the use of cell phones is closely monitored, as is the use of other electronic devices.


Grade 8 Boarding

Whether boarding for the first time or moving up from a primary school boarding environment, boarding in Grade 8 offers innumerable opportunities, much excitement and some challenges. Increased independence, adolescence and the demands of high school academic routines and programmes contribute to these challenges, but this is an incredible growth point in your sons’ lives.

A wonderful culture exists within Jolivet House, which is driven by concerned and involved staff. St Charles College aims to provide support and growth by accommodating Grade 8 boys in their own house, which includes several dormitories (dorms).

The dorms have been designed with Grade 8s in mind. Half walls divide sleeping spaces into pairs but provide an open-air dormitory shared by up to 8 boys at a time, which satisfies the need for socialisation at this stage in your boy’s development. We pursue an ethos of inclusion at this level and the boys are encouraged to participate in as many activities as they can.

Jolivet House has capacity for 60 Grade 8 boys, 4 prefects and 4 boarder masters. In addition, a housemaster’s residence is placed immediately next to the house. Close communication is maintained between the boarding staff in Jolivet House and parents, as we understand the importance of building close bonds, which will last for your boy’s time with us. 

Homework is supervised by both a boarder master and a prefect in a communal venue. Facilities are available in the house for the boys to do work outside of routine homework times. 

The house is monitored by security cameras and the recreation area is supplied with DSTV, although there is little time in the daily routine for boys to watch TV, but on weekends this is a welcome respite. Common rooms cater for socialisation and games, as well as a kitchenette for boys to make a snack should they wish.

Our Grade 8 Housemaster, Dr Miguel Cavero, is a family man with a strong pastoral and spiritual capacity who engenders a nurturing environment for our new boarders.


Grade 9 Boarding

Grade 9 boarders enjoy their own houses with cubicles occupied by pairs of boys; each equipped with built-in furniture including beds, cupboards, chairs and desks, so that boys enjoy age-appropriate privacy without being isolated. Grade 9 boarders do their homework at the desk in their rooms and are supervised by prefects and the master on duty. A spacious common room and kitchenette provide boys with a communal recreation and relaxation venue.

Grade 9 is a wonderful space for young men, no longer uncertain of high school and not yet facing the full pressures of external examinations. This is a time of exploration and internalised learning too; we encourage boys of this age to be as busy as possible and to throw themselves into multiple spheres of interest. It is a superb opportunity for a boarder to discover new passions and to build on existing interests, making the most of the ample opportunities associated with living on the school campus and its abounding facilities.

Our Grade 9 Housemaster, Mr Dirk de Beer, has educated his son at St Charles College and, with the strength of experience, is perfectly poised to provide our Grade 9 boarders with a guiding, yet necessary firm hand during what can be a tumultuous stage for boys if they are left adrift.


Grade 10 Boarding

Grade 10 boarders also enjoy their own houses with cubicles occupied by pairs of boys; each equipped with beds, cupboards, chairs and desks, so that boys enjoy age-appropriate privacy without being isolated. Grade 10 boarders do their homework at the desk in their rooms and are supervised by prefects and the master on duty. A spacious common room and kitchenette provide boys with a communal recreation and relaxation venue.

Grade 10 is a challenging space for young men as they look to prepare for senior sport whilst balancing external Cambridge examinations during their IGCSE year. This is a year where the structures and pragmatism learned through Grade 8 and 9 boarding pay off; an organised, prepared young man can thrive in his Grade 10 year. It is a superb opportunity for a boarder to utilise the benefits of methodical, continuous prep sessions without leaving everything to the end of the year.

Our Grade 10 Housemaster, Mr Adrian Simmons, is a schoolmaster in the positive, traditional sense. His oversight and genuine care are exemplified through his school-wide involvement and a keen awareness of the varying personalities and needs of those boys in his charge.


Boarding for Upper School Students

For the purpose of boarding, Grades 11 and 12 are considered as the Upper School. These grades enjoy the privilege of living in our senior buildings where we have experimented with different models of boarding buildings. Boys are accommodated in buildings where emphasis has been placed on greater privacy and easy access to outdoor areas and communal areas. Comfortable, well-appointed cubicles are occupied by pairs of boys and each house has a common room equipped with recreation equipment, a kitchenette and DSTV.

Multiple boarder masters are accommodated in each house and the housemaster resides between the two boarding houses; thus, he has ease of access and is a constant presence. Prefects are allocated to each of the Grade 11 and 12 houses. Boarders in these houses study at the desk in their rooms and are supervised by prefects and the master on duty.

Our Upper School Housemaster, Mr Nick Nel, serves both Grades 11 and 12. The continuity is a proven strength for our seniors. Sitting as Head of Boarding too, Mr Nick Nel already knows the boys when they move into Hurley House (Grade 11 house) which provides stability for busy young men entering the space of AS Level syllabi, open age group sport, leadership and tertiary considerations. The transition from Hurley House into Des White (Grade 12 house) is seamless and our boarders are free to focus on more important matters at a particularly poignant stage of their high school lives.

A Boy's Perspective

Character and Values

Consideration for others is essential to a happy and properly run Boarding Establishment. In this regard, the demands of boarding are far more stringent than what many will experience at home, simply because there are so many more to consider in a boarding environment.

Awareness of how voice, actions, and care of belongings affect those who share your living space is essential for boarders and a happy boarding environment. In this respect, our boarding at St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg offers boys the opportunity to develop personal disciplines and interpersonal skills which will prove to be an invaluable head start for life beyond the safety of school.

In essence, we aim to provide the spaces – physical and emotional – for our boarders to develop into socially aware, productive ambassadors of not only St Charles College but each of their families and communities too.

Structure and Communication

Living spaces consist of a collection of buildings. The boarding houses are situated within the secure bounds of the College. Each grade is accommodated in a different building. Administration, sanatorium and dining facilities are common to all grades. This structure minimises opportunities for domination by seniors and also implies that boys in each cohort spend five years together as a unit. This provides plenty of time to build trust, contacts and friendships for life.

We have boarders from throughout KwaZulu-Natal and a considerable number of boys from; inter alia, Zambia, Tanzania, Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Malawi, Reunion and Mauritius. From time to time, we even have boarders from as far away as Europe and China. Consequently, our boarding population is cosmopolitan, to the benefit of all our boys. In addition, many of our boarders come from farming families and these rugged, unpretentious boys with healthy interests are appreciated by our community.

Boarders are allowed to go home every weekend of the year, with only two exceptions. Boarders who do go home for the weekend may spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at home, as boarders are given the choice of returning to boarding on either Sunday evening or Monday morning. Because of Saturday sports commitments, those who regularly go home for the weekend may spend Friday night in boarding. In short, we offer a great deal of flexibility where weekends are concerned.

But what of the termly boarders? Will they be lonely and bored over the weekends? The answer is ‘no’. Every Saturday of the school year includes a full set of sports fixtures, and many boys will be busy with sports from early morning until early evening.

This means that weekends only consist of Sundays. In addition, St Charles College has a considerable complement of full-time boarders, and most Saturday evenings will see around one hundred boys enjoying dinner in the dining room.

Those who stay in boarding over the weekend are offered Youth on a Friday evening. Chapel attendance on set Sunday evenings is compulsory for boys who stay in over the weekend. Despite opportunities for outings, typically, our boarders choose to relax on the school property on Sundays. All school sport facilities (tennis courts, squash courts, fields, basketball courts etc) and certain music rooms are available to boarders on a Sunday.

Because St John’s D.S.G. for girls is geographically close to St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg and because many St Charles College boys have sisters at St John’s, there is a close relationship between the two schools. Boarders from the two schools have Chapel together and the girls from St John’s are often seen supporting their friends on the side of the sports fields on a Saturday. From time to time, boarders from the two schools share weekend activities.

The boarding team consists of:

  • A housemaster, who is responsible for the boys in a particular grade
  • Boarder masters. Each Housemaster is assisted by a small team of boarder masters
  • The Head of Boarding
  • The Boarding Secretary
  • The school nursing team
  • The catering, cleaning and maintenance teams