History of the school

St Mary’s DSG:  FOUNDED IN 1879


St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls, which was originally known as St Etheldreda’s, was founded by Bishop Bousfield, the first Bishop of Pretoria, in 1879.  Initially it was situated at No 279 Skinner Street, but after about 40 years, it moved to its present site in Hillcrest.

Formal education for women was not considered important in the 1880s.  What had started as a school for the Bishop’s six young daughters, who were privately tutored in his home, “Bishopscote,” by Miss Elizabeth Dowling, the first headmistress, soon became too small for the 20 pupils who were on the register by 1886.  A move was made to a house in Koch Street, but even those facilities became inadequate for the 75 pupils of 1889.  It was then that land was bought in Skinner Street and St Etheldreda’s was built.  The cost of the building was £1,500, of which only £300 was immediately available; the rest was raised by the Bishop and other friends of the School.  By 1895, there were 138 pupils and nine academic members of staff.

The growth of the School was sadly stunted by the onslaught of war:  the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 – 1902.  In 1902 Bishop Bousfield died and all seemed lost.  The Headmistress resigned, staff returned to England and only 25 pupils remained at St Etheldreda’s.  The Education Department suggested that the school buildings might be used as a hostel for the newly-established Pretoria High School for Girls.

When Bishop William Carter was appointed second Bishop of Pretoria (1903-1909), he fervently opposed the absorbing of Church schools by the government.  It was his inspiration that saved our school: he invited the Community of St Mary the Virgin from Wantage in England to take it over – and the Community accepted.  However, they were not able to send Sisters to South Africa until September 1903, so for nine months Miss Grenfell kept the school going.  Finally, the great day came when the first four Sisters arrived at Pretoria Station: 7 September 1903.  A new era dawned, during which the school developed into an efficient and highly-regarded institution under the capable and loving guidance of the Sisters.  Tribute, however, must be paid to those gallant Headmistresses who, for the previous 23 years, kept St Etheldreda’s afloat on the storm-tossed seas of national and educational turbulence.  The name “St Etheldreda’s” was not heard after the war, and in time the School became known as “St Mary’s Diocesan School for Girls” or the “DSG.”

The years that followed were filled with stories of growth.  The School at Skinner Street was full to overflowing, much to the delight but also consternation of the third Bishop of Pretoria, Bishop Furse, and Sister Alice, who together dreamed of a “Promised Land” – somewhere where there was space to move and grow.  The purchase and development of such a site, formerly a portion of the farm Hartebeestepoort belonging to Mr Frank Struben, was a journey of faith; a vision realised.  From 1921, when the “Promised Land” was purchased, to 1926 when the foundation stone was laid, to 1928 when the new building was ready for occupation, the school grew from strength to strength.  Countless generations of little girls (and boys until the 1950s) passed through the gates of the DSG on their way in life, shepherded by the firm, but loving nurturing of the Sisters, assisted by dedicated lay staff.

Sadly, the day came when the era of the Sisters of the Community of St Mary the Virgin (CSMV) drew to a close.  Sunday 30 November 1975 will be remembered as a day of great thanksgiving for the 72 years of devoted service offered to the school by these women of faith.  The Rev Hugh Brown took up the reins as Headmaster and guided St Mary’s DSG into a new era of growth and development.  The celebration of the School’s centenary in 1979 was a joyful reminder of the importance of the Christian ethos that has inspired the “hearts of those who teach and those who learn” (Part of the School Prayer).  The role of the Chaplain and the central position of the Chapel continue to give focus and opportunities for spiritual formation.

The year 2004 gave the School a further opportunity to celebrate: 125 years of the best that a holistic education has to offer!   

“That is the wonderful thing about our School.  We will not leave DSG behind completely.  It is like home: you do not always have to be there, but the knowledge that it will always be there is what really matters.”  Mieke Botes: Head Girl 2002

Values of DSG


RESPECT FOR GOD and the spiritual traditions of the school

  • Means honouring God in our communal worship services and in our individual lives
  • Means humbly seeking to be Christ-like in all our relationships
  • Means encouraging spiritual growth and the development of a personal faith in God
  • Means generously offering our lives in service to God and his people
  • Means to make an effort to understand and respect other people’s religions.
  • Means showing kindness and love to others.
  • Means to remain quiet and behave appropriately and reverently in a place of worship
  • Means to participate actively in Chapel services and acts of worship e.g. singing enthusiastically.


  • Means we are uniquely created and therefore respect our bodies
  • Means we must do the best we can in caring for our mind, body and soul


  • Means acknowledging who we are and presenting ourselves in a valuable way.
  • Means to have pride in what we do but still be humble.
  • Means to resist peer pressure


  • Means to take responsibility for our own actions rather than blaming others
  • Means to acknowledge and accept the consequences of any misdemeanour we have committed.
  • Means to set a good example to our peers and to behave in a responsible and reliable manner


  • Means to ensure that our assignments are our own work.
  • Means being truthful whilst showing sensitivity to others


  • Means to keep working towards improvement in all areas of our lives
  • Means to try our best to be positive
  • Means to complete our homework and hand it in on time.
  • Means to do the tasks assigned to the best of our ability
  • Means once a commitment has been made it should be taken seriously
  • Means being accountable for our own behaviour and decisions


  • Means working for what is good for the school community
  • Means to show sympathy for others and encourage our peers positively.
  • Means to greet and be courteous towards all of whom we come into contact with.
  • Means to respect the belongings of others.
  • Means to help each other when we can see someone who is in need of help.
  • Means to support each other in standing up for what is right
  • Means to respect other people’s privacy


  • Means everyone has a right to their own viewpoint, although we do not support viewpoints which go against other DSG values
  • Means to be patient.
  • Means to allow everyone to express their views and opinions without discrimination.
  • Means to understand people instead of judging them.


  • Means working fairly together
  • Means working in teams to achieve shared goals
  • Means to share ideas and help find joint and creative solutions.
  • Means to work together as one community.


Means we support justice for all people

  • Means people have equal opportunities
  • Means to treat others as we would like to be treated.
  • Means not to discriminate for any reason against anyone.


  • Means taking pride in our school and work.
  • Means honouring and upholding our school’s values.
  • Means to wear our uniform with pride and carry ourselves in a manner respectful to ourselves and others.
  • Means to respect the privileges and traditions of the school e.g. standing aside for older people.
  • Means to respect and adhere to the school rules, which basically ensures that we will respect our environment, peers, religion, cultures, parents, teachers and school.
  • Means to have a positive outlook towards ourselves, our school and others.
  • Means to spread a positive image of our school to people outside DSG.
  • Means to remember that everything we do outside of school bears consequences and stays with us forever.


Built on the Christian (Anglican) faith, shared values, holistic excellence, and deep tradition…


St Mary’s DSG aims to empower confident yet humble women of Integrity and character to serve our nation and the world.


  • to be a community where care, compassion and service abound, internally and externally.
  • to search for academic excellence through hard work, critical thinking, creativity and innovation.
  • to offer a wide variety of opportunities in sport and culture, deliberately exposing learners to life and leadership.
  • to use information technology effectively to enhance learning and prepare learners for the  unknown future.
  • to provide a home of beauty, safety and vibrancy for all.
  • to exercise exemplary environmental responsibility.
  • to be known for the expertise and confidence of our alumnae.


The values embraced by the girls, parents and staff of St Mary’s DSG include:

  •  A strong commitment to Christian (Anglican) beliefs
  •  An appreciation of the sound tradition built over more than a century
  •  An appreciation of every girl as an individual
  •  A caring environment

The school has a three-term year. Term dates vary from year to year, but are approximately as follows:

Term 1 - mid-January to early April

Term 2 - early May to early August

Term 3 - early September to early December

The academic day starts at 07:30 for all pupils. Extra-mural and sporting activities take place in the afternoons and on some Saturday mornings.

 The School is divided into four Houses - St Andrew, St George, St David and St Patrick. Inter-House competitions take place in all sports as well as in other activities such as music, drama, public speaking and quizzes.



The Christian ethics espoused by the Bishop and Sisters from the outset have been handed down over the years and remain at the heart of our teaching philosophy, with daily acts of worship and chapel services co-ordinated by our resident Chaplain.

As an Anglican school, St Mary's aims to deepen an awareness of the love of God and to encourage spiritual growth. While girls of other denominations and faiths are welcome at St Mary's, all pupils are required to attend Divinity classes, daily acts of worship and certain other compulsory chapel services.

Voluntary services, including Mass, are celebrated regularly; these provide ample opportunity for girls to further their worship. The Sunday services are compulsory for boarders, but daygirls and parents are always welcome to attend.
The Chaplain prepares girls for confirmation. Girls are encouraged to participate actively in the worship. Many serve in other ways as sacristans, servers or choir members.


The School Prayer

Lord Jesus, Child of Bethlehem,
bless our school and all its members, past and present.
Be with us in our worship,
in our work and in our play.
Inspire the hearts of those who teach
and of those who learn;
train those who rule and those who obey,
that all may offer Thee the perfect service
which is worthy of Thy Love.
Who livest and reignest with the Father
and the Holy Spirit, ever one God,
world without end.

Governing Body Role

The Governing Body of St Mary's DSG (Pretoria), elected according to the Constitution of St Mary's DSG, is responsible for overall policy and strategy of the School, ensuring sound financial management which will further the objectives of the school as set out in the Constitution.

The Constitution is approved by the Synod of the Diocese of Pretoria of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.

High priority is given to sound governance in accordance with the principles outlined in the King Reports.

The Governing Body meets 5 or 6 times a year. An Executive of the Governing Body is elected to manage the school on a daily basis and includes members responsible for Finance, Lands and Buildings, Marketing, Risk Management, Legal issues etc. Constitutionally the Governor's Executive, chaired by the duly elected Vice Chair of the Governing Body, is required to meet 8 times a year.





Chairman                              The Rt Revd Allan Kannemeyer



Vice-Chairman                       Mr Dion Shango



Governors:                            Mrs Mathebe Aphane

                                            Ms Nadira Bayat

                                            Mrs Helen Buhrs

                                            Mrs Rochelle Damons

                                            Ms Dionne de Villiers Smith

                                            Mr David Gatama

                                            Mrs Ntsiki Gumbe

                                            Mr Shawn Maphalla

                                            Mrs Judith Miller (co-opted)

                                            Mr Mark Randall (co-opted)

                                            Mrs Lizell Reinecke

                                            Mrs Sharon Smulders

                                            Mr Shane Stoffels

                                            Ms Cecilia van der Merwe



Transformation and Diversity

Health and wellness

Support and Counselling

The focus of our Wellness Centre is to oversee the emotional, physical, spiritual, health and therapeutic care of all our learners and teachers (Junior and Senior School). The group of professionals work closely together to provide a comprehensive counselling, referral and advisory service to the DSG community as a whole in order to create an optimal learning environment to our learners. As such we are dedicated to helping each individual, group or family who approaches us for support.

Emotional Well-being
(Educational Psychologists)

The Educational Psychology department consists of three educational psychologists, Dr Marthé Pienaar, Mrs Riandie Marais and Ms Lesley King. We work closely together with parents, teachers and outside professionals to render an effective multi-disciplinary service. Mrs Christa de Villiers (as head of Life Orientation) supports the team with career guidance and university applications.

Dr Marthé Pienaar  mpienaar@stmarys.pta.school.za      (Senior School)
Mrs Riandie Marais  rmarais@stmarys.pta.school.za         (Junior School)
Ms Lesley King  lking@stmarys.pta.school.za             (Junior School)
012 362-1352, Ext 128
012 362-1352, Ext 182
012 362-1352, Ext 161

Physical Well-being

The Sanatorium is a very warm and cosy environment where our two qualified nursing sisters, Sr Lizl du Plessis and Sr Charnène Zietsman, take care of the sick or injured girls. The girls are assessed and given medication with the appropriate consent from the parents. We take care of minor ailments like coughs and colds as well as more serious injuries such as broken arms.

We also work closely with parents, teachers and other professionals such as doctors, dentists, hospitals etc.

 Sr Lizl du Plessis  lduplessis@stmarys.pta.school.za
 Sr Annika Scholtz  ascholtz@stmarys.pta.school.za

Spiritual Well-being

St Mary's DSG is a Christian school of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa (ACSA) within the Diocese of Pretoria. The school aims to deepen an awareness of the love of God and to encourage spiritual growth. Faith is important in the life of the school and this is symbolised by the centrality of the chapel on the school campus.  

Although St Mary's DSG is an Anglican school, girls from other denominations and faiths are welcomed and their convictions respected.  Chapel attendance remains compulsory, with the Junior School girls attending Chapel Services on Wednesdays  and Fridays and Senior School girls on Tuesdays and every second Thursday. Voluntary services including mass are celebrated regularly; these provide ample opportunity for girls and staff  to further their worship. The Sunday services are compulsory for boarders but day girls and parents are welcomed to attend.

The two chaplain are:

Fr Leonard Nyakale.  Email: lnyakale@stmarys.pta.school.za (Senior School)

Fr Timothy Lowes. Email: tlowes@stmarys.pta.school.za (Junior School)