Pretoria High School for Girls

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Pretoria High School for Girls
File:Pretoria High School for Girls Park Street Pretoria 001.jpg
Pretoria High School for Girls, Park Street Pretoria entrance
Prosit Spes Labori
"We Work in Hope"
949 Park Street, Arcadia
Pretoria, South Africa
Pretoria, Gauteng
South Africa
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School type Public school Public high school
Founded 1902
Founder The Rt Hon. Lord Milner
Sister school Pretoria Boys High School
Headmistress Mrs. K. du Toit
Grades Grades 8-12
Gender Female
Medium of language English
Language English
Campus type urban
Houses Aitken, Athlone, Buxton, Clarendon, Connaught, Duncan, Gladstone, McWilliam, Selborne, Van Zyl
Colour(s)      blue and      green
Sports Hockey
Nickname Girls High
Accreditation Gauteng Department of Education

Pretoria High School for Girls, also called Girls High or PHSG, is a public, fee charging, English medium high school for girls located in Hatfield, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa. It is the sister school to Pretoria Boys High School.[1]


Second Anglo-Boer War

In the 1880s the South African Republic Government built a Staatsmodelschool on the corner of Skinner and van der Walt Streets and a Staatsmeisjesschool (State Girls' School)on Visagie Street. By January 1900, with the war in full swing, the Staatsmeisjesschool had been commissioned as a hospital, while the Staatsmodelschool had been turned into a prison. Sir Winston Churchill was captured by the Boers and imprisoned in the school building, but managed to make his famous escape from there and took the railroad into Portuguese East Africa.

Lord Milner and the "Milner Schools"

With Pretoria under British control, it became apparent to Lord Milner, the Colonial Secretary at the time, that the educational facilities in the city needed attention as there was no secondary school for English-speaking pupils (and it was Milner's intention was to anglicize what would become the Transvaal). The Staatsmodelschool was duly refurbished. It was renamed Pretoria High School and became the first of the so-called "Milner" schools in the Transvaal, opening on 3 June 1901 with Charles Hope, who also founded Potchefstroom High School for Boys, as headmaster. Initial enrollment was 32 pupils, both boys and girls, which increased to 132 by August of that year.The school was to later become Pretoria Boys High School when the girls left.

Formation of Pretoria High School for Girls

Mr Hope left 15 months later, along with the girls, who were finally accommodated into the old building of the Staatsmeisjesschool. By October 10, 1902, the school opened as Pretoria High School for Girls. It consisted of four teachers and 126 girls under Edith Aitken, but contrary to the name, taught both primary and secondary school pupils until these two groups were separated in 1905. Girls High moved out to its current Hatfield location on 28 July 1915. The primary school continued to occupy the Staatsmeisjesskool premises and is today known as Hamilton School.[2]

Edith Aitken (first headmistress)

Edith Aitken, the first headmistress, was a remarkable pioneer who fought for higher education for women and was determined to bring together the various cultural groups, as is reflected in the School Charter she formulated.[3] She modeled the school after the North London Collegiate School which she had attended.[4] She also adopted the motto, "We work in hope" to apply to the new girls school. In the school's first magazine she wrote: "On the first re-opening nearly half the girls were of Dutch extraction. The school was opened and conducted with the earnest hope that here girls of different races and different denominations might meet in the commonwealth of letters which gave Erasmus and Shakespeare to the World; to acquire there, in accordance with the ideals of Christian Duty, the healthy physique, the trained mind and the disciplined character which should fit each to live worthily in that state of life unto which it should please God to call her.

World War II

During the 2nd World War, the school served the community by supplying items to the needy. This tradition has continued into the present day, with each pupil and staff member annually knitting a jersey, which is given to needy members of the community.[5]

Apartheid era

Pretoria High School for Girls was designated a "white" school during the apartheid era in South Africa. The school was subject to the government's separate development policies resulting in schools segregated according to government determined racial categories. As a progressive school, Girl's High was one of the first white schools to embrace the "New South Africa". Even before President De Klerk's call for a new South Africa, Clem Sunter had addressed the "high road, low road" vision to integrate.[6] PSHG was the first school under the Transvaal Education Department to open its facilities to pupils from the townships.[6] Teachers here taught Saturday morning classes to 50 standard 9 pupils as part of St Mary's DSG Outreach Program.[6]

It was amongst one of the first public schools to integrate during the transition period in South Africa from a political system of apartheid to a multiparty, multi-racial democracy. The school hoped to finally, legally realize its multi-racial dimension in its charter (" earnest hope that here girls of different races and different denominations might meet") as apartheid began to be dismantled. The first black pupil was admitted to Girls High in 1990 and was the daughter of a Malawian diplomat, SP Kachipande.[7] After that, a student vote where 80% of the students voted for PHSG to transition to an "open school" to enable it to admit South Africans from all races.[6] The year after, a few more students from the Malawian embassy enrolled in the school and thereafter South Africans from other races. PHSG became the first white state school in Northern Transvaal (now Gauteng) to open its doors to girls of all races.[8] During this time, the school was under the leadership of Ms. Ann Van Zyl, who later became headmistress of the prestigious St Stithians Girls College in Johannesburg and Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.[8] By 1994, the school opened its doors to black South African students and became fully integrated. Apartheid was fully dismantled as the legal system in 1994.


  • Edith Aitkin 1902–
  • Jean F McWilliam
  • Winifred Hawkins
  • Minnie Neave
  • Eileen Nelson 1946 - 1970
  • Beryl Mullins 1971–1988[9]
  • Anne Van Zyl 1989–1995
  • Alison Kitto 1995–2002
  • Penny A McNair (2003–2014)

Present day

Currently, Girls High is a school with a diverse body of students of all races and nationalities. It is the aim of the School to produce well educated, balanced young women, who are adaptable, creative and independent, have integrity, social responsibility and respect, in an environment of inclusion and equality. Girls learn traditional subjects like home economics, biology, mathematics, science, history and art. They also may learn 'life skills' like knitting, wood shop and car mechanics. In 2006, Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor MP spoke at the valediction ceremony.[10]


Girls High is a state school that is held in high esteem and is supported by influential people and organizations. It includes the children of Minister of finance Pravin Gordhan's and Minister of health Aaron Motsoaledi's daughters.[11] The school has also had patronage from the diplomatic community, including diplomats from Chile, Malawi, Uruguay, and other countries. It was voted by the Pretoria News as the best high school in Pretoria.[12]


PHSG is one of the top schools in Gauteng in academic achievement.[13] They are listed in the department of education's top 100 list.[14] PHSG has a rigorous academic curriculum,from 2004–2009, they have had a 100% Matriculation pass rate.[15] PHSG also won the Most Improved Schools Awards of 2007 together with 10 other schools around the country.[14] They won a prize for Excellence in Mathematics because 138 students attained a higher grade maths pass mark.[14] It is in the top 5 public schools in the province.[16]

In 2009, they had a 99.9 percent Matric pass rate when one student failed.[15] The school has also been recognized as a circle of Excellence School by the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation (Allan Gray company).[17]


The motto of the School is We work in hope, and has a Latin equivalent, Prosit Spes Labori.[3]

Coat of arms

In 1936, the school's coat of arms was registered with the Department of the Interior as a "badge" under the Protection of Names, Uniforms and Badges Act 1935. In 1990, after slight improvement, it was registered at the Bureau of Heraldry under the Heraldry Act 1962. The registration certificate was presented to the school by Frederick Brownell, the State Herald at that time. The school magazine of that year includes an explanation of the coat of arms.Heraldic practice in English tradition is to depict the arms of unmarried ladies or widows on a Lozenge (heraldry)(a diamond shaped shield). The lozenge makes a bold heraldic statement about feminism.[18] By 1990 only three schools, Girton College in Cambridge, St Patricks Girls High School, Canada and PHSG were known to display their arms on lozenges.[18] Nowadays, however, to judge from its website, Girton College displays its arms on a shield.


The school uniform is a green dress with a blue blazer for cooler weather. A dark blue skirt and white dress shirt are required for winter with a dark blue blazer.


  • North Lodge (on campus)
  • School House (on campus)
  • St Alban's Hostel (off campus Farenden and Pretorious Street) - this hostel has been closed since 2008. This hostel was built in 1928 and given to PHSG by the Holy Christ Church next door. It was supported by the Vatican Emissary (embassy) in Pretoria.[19] The building is still owned by PHSG and is a protected site.[19]


Pretoria High School for Girls hosts an annual Spring fair that is attended by Old Girls, current students[20] and the general public.

Alumnae ('Old Girls')

Girls High alumnae are known as 'Old Girls' and there are Old Girls chapters in South Africa, Australia and England.

Notable alumnae


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  3. 3.0 3.1 "Pretoria High School For Girls". Schoolguide.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Journal of Education".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Pretoria High School for Girls".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 Pretoria High School for Girls Yearbook 1990, No 96 PHSG p 3
  7. Pretoria High School for Girls Yearbook 1990, No 96 PHSG
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Oprah academy's new head - EducationWeb".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Pandor: Pretoria High School for Girls Valedictory Function (05/10/2006)".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Pretoria High School for Girls".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "The Home Of Great South African News - SA Good News".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. 15.0 15.1
  16. Independent Newspapers Online. "Pretoria's matrics shine brightly". Independent Online.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. 18.0 18.1 Pretoria High School for Girls Yearbook 1990, No 96 PHSG p 2
  19. 19.0 19.1 "ABLEWIKI:802 Pretorius Street, Arcadia, Pretoria".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Past Exhibit - MYFANWY BEKKER - South African Contemporary and Fine Art Gallery".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links