About Uplands Festival

How it all began

Uplands is an independent, English speaking school operating under the auspices of the Anglican Church.  The school, which is situated on a large, country estate in White River, Mpumalanga, offers schooling to boys and girls from Grades 000 to 12, with boarding from Grade 4 upwards.

In preparing a child for life after school, Uplands provides exceptional and complete education, within a secure learning environment.

An integral part of the Uplands community is the Uplands Outreach Institute.  This is a non-profit organisation that has received two Education Africa Presidential Awards.

Uplands Outreach

We focus on closing the achievement gap in rural education.

In South Africa today, the education statistics are a clear call to action:

  • Only half of each Grade 1 cohort will eventually complete twelve years of primary and secondary school.
  • An estimated 80% of schools (about 20,000 schools) are under-performing.
  • Girls from South Africa’s marginalised communities have a 4% chance of getting into university.
  • An alarmingly high proportion of Grade 6 learners have not mastered the most basic reading and numeracy skills.

(Source: National Planning Commission, National Development Plan, 2011)

It is for these reasons that Uplands Outreach was established in 1994, with the objective of partnering with schools serving previously disadvantaged communities – to help overcome the disparity in educational standards in Mpumalanga, South Africa.

At the heart of what we do is the fundamental knowledge that all children can learn, and deserve the benefits of a quality education.

From small beginnings

Uplands Preparatory School was founded in 1928 and the need for a local high school offering a continuation of the Uplands Prep value-based education inspired parents to make the decision on 31 May 1997 to found Uplands College.

Together the Prep and College have around 970 children today with families predominantly from the Lowveld but also Gauteng, the neighbouring countries and even as far afield as England and America.

To raise funds for the schools and the Outreach Institute, the Uplands Festival staged Johnny Clegg in 2003.  Two shows with a capacity of 800 people each were staged in one evening.  Both shows were a sell-out, and another 700 people were on campus to enjoy the beer marquee, food halls and the general atmosphere.

Following this success, the Uplands Festival brought Mango Groove to White River in 2004, which coincided with the Independent Schools Rugby Festival.  Altogether 5,000 people were on the campus to enjoy the show, jazz, food and festive atmosphere.

After much demand, a festival styled after the Grahamstown Festival, was held in 2006.  This proved to be a tremendous success with over 2,000 theatre tickets being sold over the two days.

The website saw over 10,000 hits and over 1,000 cars entered the campus over the two days.  The second such festival in 2007 saw attendance increase by 30% and in 2008 and 2009 this increased by a further 20% before mushrooming in 2010.

… and so the festival of entertainment grew from humble beginnings.

Year after year, attendance has swelled and the scale of it has increased; what started as a “mini-festival” along the lines of the Grahamstown Festival is now a huge annual event.  It’s well supported by local and national businesses, and boasts attendance in excess of 14 000 people.  The Uplands Festival is managed by a team of volunteer parents and teachers.  Each prep class is challenged to raise money from their class stall that goes into the PTA kitty and is used for added extras which are not in the school budget.

However, while fundraising is important, the emphasis is on having fun and coming together as a community; to share happy times that create happy memories for our children.