The model for our approach to educational excellence -- and for the sort of global relationship that helps make it possible -- is the Holy Cross School in Grahamstown, South Africa.  Completed in 2011, the school is one of the fruits of an intercontinental partnership between two chapters of the Order of the Holy Cross, an Anglican Benedictine order for men founded in 1884 by Father James Otis Sargent Huntington, who gave us the quote "Love must act as light must shine forth and fire must burn."  One half of this partnership of monastic communities is based at Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, New York, while the other is based at Mariya uMama weThemba Monastery in Grahamstown.   

Our strategy for pro-poor, holistic education includes:

  • We recognize that we’re serving not just the student but the student and her or his family.
  • We recognize that in the South African context we must help our children stay in school lest the opportunities provided be wasted. To this end, we help families make sure their children are receiving the services and support they need to stay in school (medical and dental care, nutritional support, pastoral care, social services, psychiatric services, and occupational therapy).
  • We support families through education and support and, when needed, active intervention.
  • We keep the controls and leadership local to adapt to local contexts.
  • We facilitate parental investment at a comfortable level to encourage involvement (all our students are charged tuition based on a sliding scale of R100 ($14) to R1,200 ($168) per month.
  • We have developed a well-regarded plan for bi-lingual education, which honors our students’ culture (Xhosa) and teaches English for comprehension to our students who speak isiXhosa at home.
  • We have a recognized expertise in the teaching of reading and stressing the importance of reading (up until the third grade, you learn to read; after the third grade, you read to learn).

Holy Cross School, a primary educational institution began as just for students in grades R-3 (K through 3 in American terms) emphasizing holistic education according to the highest international standards. It serves an overwhelming disadvantaged community: nearly all of its 75 students come from households making less than the national living wage, and nearly one-in-five come from households with at least one deceased parent.  Through its utilization of a world-class educational model and its rooting in communities of love, however, it consistently performs to standards on par with, or even exceeding, schools in the developed world

The demand for quality primary education in South Africa is so great and the supply is strikingly lacking. This in turn is why we, in partnership with the Anglican Diocese of Grahamstown, the Order of the Holy Cross, and The Anglican Board of Education of Southern Africa, are moving to expand and enhance the capacity of which Holy Cross operates-from K-3 to K-7-as well as creating and implementing a sustainability to plan to ensure the functionality of the school into perpetuity. We have our first grade four class this year, 2019.

Love Must Act and the Order Holy Cross have developed a six-year plan to ensure the stability, expansion, and sustainability of the Holy Cross School. This six-year plan began in 2017 and is currently on-track. This plan entails a robust fundraising scheme that entails financial support from grants, private donors, and investments.  The backbone is a grassroots partnership program we call the  SHARE program.

The plan has five steps:

1.     Stabilize: (August 1, 2017-December 31, 2022)

2.     Enlarge:  Provide Appropriate facilities for Additional Grades (January 1, 2018-December 31-2019)

3.     Expand: Add One Grade Per Year Through Grade 7 (January 1, 2019-December 31, 2022)

4.     Sustain: (January 1, 2019- December 31, 2022)

5.     Repeat Elsewhere:

Our partnership has a planned-for exit strategy to avoid dependency and invite the Grahamstown community to then share themselves and their gifts with others.

Here are some basic facts about Holy Cross that demonstrate what we’re talking about:


The student-to-teacher rater at Holy Cross is 14-1. This bests the national South African rate of 32-1 by more than twofold, and contributes immensely to the individual attention available to all students, and to their academic achievement particularly in complex subjects such as mathematics and the sciences.


The South African constitution recognizes the right to education for all citizens, and South Africa has endorsed international commitments to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education.   Holy Cross’s female-to-male ratio among students is 26-24, having slightly surpassed the global standard of providing educational opportunity for girls at the same rate as for boys.


Holy Cross’s rate of absenteeism is just 2.24%, more than four times better than South Africa’s national rate of 10%, and also substantially better than the chronic-absenteeism rate in the United States.


Throughout the world, schools in poorer countries and regions struggle to provide text books to all students.  In South Africa, for example, between 25-30% of primary students do not have, or must share, textbooks.  At Holy Cross, textbook access in through the second grade is 100%, and in the third grade is more than 95%.


The quality of teacher pay, of course, is key to the quality of education.  Holy Cross’s teachers are compensated at a rate comparable to government employees in South Africa: 240,000 Rand per year (approximately $18,500). The principal of the school, by choice, chooses to draw a salary less than the average for her position at other schools.

To visit the Holy Cross School's website, click here.