In 2004, I began working at Waterford Kamhlaba United World College in Swaziland. This is a school about five hours drive from Johannesburg set amongst the mountains of a small landlocked country the size of Wales. WK, as it is known, was the place that Nelson Mandela chose to have his children educated. As a United World College, it recruits its students worldwide and they come to Swaziland to take the IB Diploma, the international alternative to A-level. These students get academic scholarships and come from far and wide. It also recruits younger students for the lower school from nearer home. Most of the students aged 12 to 16 are from South Africa and neighbouring countries with a sizeable number coming from Ethiopia and some from Europe.

A large proportion of the students boarded. In fact, most of the IB students did as most of them came from outside Africa. I lived on campus which was outside the capital city Mbabane on a hillside. The weather was hot in summer and cold and misty in winter.

In 2006, I began fostering two boys aged 5 and 9 who had been living in the paediatric ward of Mbabane General Hospital. The younger child was there because he had been beaten round the head with a frying pan by his step-mother. The older child had been resident there for about two years and had serious health problems. There are over 100 000 orphans in Swaziland, and if you know anything about the health crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, you will know why. I’m not going to elaborate. The only place for these orphans is the street or some underfunded government institution. There are multiple Church run orphanages in the country, mainly funded by American evangelical churches. However, there are far too many orphans. There is no culture of adoption in Swaziland. People rely on an extended family network and orphans tend to be looked after by distant relations but usually in an exploitative relationship.

Beketele, Sakhile and Paddy on my veranda at WK

There was another teacher at the school who had adopted a baby so I knew that adoption was a possibility. I had been working with the school on a community service project at the hospital. I discuss the adoption in more detail in another post.

Beketele was a woman whom I employed to look after my two boys when I was teaching. She also cleaned the flat and did the washing. I paid her well compared to other teachers and I treated her well as she did a great job. There were some staff who underpaid their workers and that did not impress me.

After I left Swaziland, I lost touch with Beketele. I enjoyed the chats I had with her. I would ask her how to pronounce certain words and she would tell me about Swazi culture. I was sorry to lose touch with her when I left Swaziland in 2007. I returned on holiday in 2013 and tried to locate her, placing an advert in the Swazi Times. I then heard from the housekeeper at WK that she was living in South Africa. I never did find her but I hope life has treated her well.

Sponsoring Nhlanhla

In 2005, I was living and working in Swaziland. The boys from the neighbourhood used to tout for business cleaning cars at the school where I worked and so forth and it was this way that I met Thabo. I’m not using his real name because there is a lot of jealousy towards people who manage to advance themselves in Swaziland. At that time, he was fourteen years old and his family had not been able to afford his school fees. Consequently, he had been out of school for a year. I offered to meet his mother and discuss the possibility of paying for his school fees where he was already enrolled for the new school year due to start in September. So it was that he started form 1 at Mbabane Central High School that year. He progressed very well and was a keen student. He completed five forms and left school in 2010.


In 2011, he enrolled at the University of Swaziland to study for a business management and accounting degree. I pay for his accommodation and a living allowance. He is now in the final year of his studies. Most likely, he will continue in education for a year to study for a post-graduate qualification in education so that he will be able to get a job as a teacher if he cannot find a job in business.

Having sponsored him for over nine years, I have seen him grow in confidence and expand his horizons. He keeps in contact with me and is good friends with my son. He also helps my son keep in touch with his roots in Swaziland. My hope is that he will be able to start a business one day. I have probably spent in the region of £5000 so far in supporting him and if he leaves with a University degree and gets a job, it will be worth it. Hopefully, I will have contributed in some way to the development of the country.

Update January 2019

Nhlanhla at his graduation ceremony, 2015

In 2015, he graduated from university with a bachelor of commerce degree. He then got a job with Swazi Railways in May 2016, being one of only three selected for interview. He has recently been promoted.