Imagine going to a boarding school where just beyond the back yard are zebras and giraffes! That’s the exciting reality for boys at Hilton College, one of the top schools in South Africa. We find out more from the team.
Tell us about the school in a few sentences.
Hilton College is an independent boys-only boarding school in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Established 150 years ago, it’s one of the top schools in the country and is situated on a spectacular 1,600-hectare estate with world-class facilities. We offer leading global curricula, from IGCSE and A Levels in a broad range of subjects, to specialised SAT preparation, Oxbridge tutorials and university admissions support.
Where do the boarders come from?
We pride ourselves in being representative of South Africa’s rich tapestry of cultures and also have boys from 20 countries – from as far afield as the UK and Singapore. We love the flavour that each boy adds to the mix.
How does the house system work at Hilton?
We have seven boarding houses, with about 85 boys in each house. Headed by a housemaster who lives in the house with his family, each house has a character of its own and provides a real “home away from home” to our boys. Ably assisted by house managers, who are more like substitute mums to our boys, our housemasters ensure that all boys are well cared for and find belonging in the house and school at large. Providing additional pastoral care is a deputy housemaster, plus four other staff members who lend practical support with homework and other tasks. Every boy has a tutor who meets with him twice a week to oversee his progress and wellbeing.
In line with our philosophy of servant leadership, we do not have prefects. All Grade 12 boys carry the mantle to serve as leaders and live out our values of service, humility, respect and compassion. In each house, the boys are led by a head of house who monitors the mentor system, whereby each G12 boy mentors a G8 boy.
Sometimes noisy but always fun, our houses are vibrant places where the boys relax and hang out together, playing chess, table tennis and card games, or watching football or movies.
What’s notable about the school’s location, environment and facilities?
One of the most distinguishing features of Hilton College is our proclaimed nature reserve: 650 hectares of indigenous bush, which is home to warthogs, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest and six species of buck. This is our boys’ back yard, complete with campsites with ablutions and multiple locations for improvised camping.
Back on campus, we cater for a wide variety of interests. There’s a state-of-the-art music block, complete with recording studio and performance spaces, and a 450-seat theatre, while the sport facilities include tennis courts, indoor basketball courts and outstanding grass fields for rugby, soccer and cricket. Boys also have access to two gyms, a heated swimming pool and a rowing training centre.
What kind of characteristics do you aim to inspire in boys?
We place character development ahead of academic achievement and sporting prowess. Our boys are inspired to be compassionate, humble, sensitive, imaginative and concerned about the needs of others.
What extracurricular opportunities are available?
Our boys are strongly encouraged to exploit the many opportunities afforded to them, from involvement in debating and the performing arts to membership of one or more of the many clubs and societies on campus. Sporty boys can choose from 15 sporting codes, from athletics to water polo. Cross-cultural exchange terms are offered for those boys wishing to experience life in other world-class schools in Australia, India, the UK and the US.
We place a high value on spirituality and emotional wellness, and our unique location and natural environment inspire boys to self-reflect and consider their spiritual selves and their place in the world.
Give us an insight into a typical day for a boarder at Hilton College.
Weekdays start with rising at 6.30am followed by breakfast; the academic day starts at 8am and ends at 2.15pm. After school, boys enjoy an hour of down time, unless they need to attend support lessons. Sports practice then begins, ending at 5.15pm.
All boys engage in at least one sport twice a week, and for one hour on a Friday afternoon in preparation for match days (Saturdays). On the days they’re not playing sport, boys are free to explore the estate, learn a musical instrument or take up an additional sport. Dinner is between 5.30pm and 6.45pm, with two sessions of prep (homework time) after that. “Lights out” is between 9 and 10pm, depending on grade.
Weekends are generally laid back, although the boys have one class on Saturday mornings from 7.45am to 8.30am. This is followed by sports fixtures and down time. On Sundays, boys can sleep in until 8am and after breakfast attend chapel service. At 9.30am, all juniors must explore the estate until lunch time. The senior boys usually use this time to study.
What kinds of things do Hilton boys go on to do with their lives and careers?
Across society our alumni have made their mark. Old Hiltonians include commercial astronaut Michael Melvill, cardiac surgeon Sir Terence English and, closer to home, architect and activist Rusty Bernstein, who played a pivotal role in drafting the Freedom Charter, the blueprint for South Africa’s lauded Constitution. When Nelson Mandela was guest speaker at Hilton’s speech day in 2001, the head boy was Karabo Mokoape, whose father Aubrey was a leader of the Black Consciousness Movement and had also been a political prisoner.
Visit hiltoncollege.com to find out more or to submit an enquiry form.
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