Bloemfontein became our base for five nights. The first two were spent at a B&B before we moved into a hostel conducted by the Oblate fathers. The day following our visit to Mariasdal we visited two schools in Bloemfontein. The first was St Josephs where we addressed the staff and had morning tea. I was most impressed with the manners of the students I encountered in the yard. They stood and greeted me as I made my way towards the staffroom and so I stopped to chat with them. One of the most abiding memories of the entire visit would be the friendliness and politeness of the students we met everywhere.
As with all our former whites only schools, the majority of students were now from upwardly mobile black families. It was different in the township schools (see later) which were entirely made up of black students from poorer families.
Addressing the staff at St Josephs Bloemfontein
From St Josephs we made our way across the city to St Bernards - a much poorer school located in a black township. There we again addressed a group of students from the Edmund Rice Society followed by a combined group of key staff from St Bernards and the neighbouring St Mary's primary school.
Bloemfontein viewed from Naval Hill
Our 'work' for the day completed we detoured to the top of Naval Hill to obtain a view of the town and to my surprise came upon a giraffe leisurely munching on the leaves of a tree.
Evona posing with giraffe on Naval Hill
Bloemfontein is the capital of the Free State which along with the Tansvaal was a major centre for the Boer population - the descendants of the Dutch settlers who trekked north from CapeTown in order to escape domination by the British.
Bloemfontein was also the location of a notorious British concentration camp during the Boer War where an estimated 26,000 women and children died of starvation and disease. They had been taken from their farms and their homes and livestock destroyed in a 'scorched earth' policy designed to prevent their providing food and support for the roving bands of Boer commandos who were conducting a guerilla type of warfare against the British.