Wilberforce Institude was founded by the AME Church in 1908 in Evaton, South Africa, and for over 50 years educated ministers and teachers for leadership positions in their communities. The apartheid laws forced Wilberforce to close in the early 1970s. The AME Church was the only denomination that did not sell its property to the apartheid government. Following the dismantling of the apartheid system, the AME Church commenced the re-establishment of Wilberforce, which is now known as Wilberforce Community College.
The Charlotte Maxeke/Joseph McKinney Renaissance Building is the main campus structure housing administration and lecturer’s offices, conference rooms, study rooms, classrooms, a 30-workstation computer lab, a fully equipped science laboratory, the main hall for large group functions, and a library. Through additional grants provided by USAID/DCHA/PVC-ASHA, the college plans to expand its campus to include dormitories, a dining hall, and a community center.
The Classroom contains 25 computer workstations that have access to Web-ICT software. The Resource Centre contains 26 computer workstations for use in training students on various Information Technology subjects, topics, and skills.Faculty Housing comprises six fully furnished and equipped houses to accommodate visiting professors and volunteers who teach or provide other services to the College.
With its motto that says, ‘ONLY THE BEST IS GOOD ENOUGH’, the Wilberforce institute is a reflection of the vision of Mama Charlotte Makgomo Mannya-Maxeke. Hers was to see a black child settle for nothing less than the best, anything less was not good enough. Wilberforce Community College was established to realize the African dream to serve as a vehicle to transform the black community from being mere consumers but be participants in the production of goods and services in a sustainable manner. Mannya-Maxeke (1871 – 1939) was a pioneering South African woman who was passionate about inclusivity, education, and evangelism. She grasped every opportunity presented to her and accomplished many notable firsts during her lifetime. It is not by mistake that she’s referred to as ‘The First of Everything’ these include: Being the first black South African woman to achieve a BSC degree in 1901. Being the first woman to participate in the King’s Courts under King Sabata Dalindyebo of AbaThembu. Established a school in Evaton with her husband in 1908 (Wilberforce Institute) Being the only woman who attended and contributed to the first African National Congress (ANC) conference in 1912. Being co-initiator, organizer and the first President of the Bantu Women’s League founded in 1918 (it would later become the ANC Women’s League She drew inspiration from her life-long vision of lifting others up, and from her time in the United States of America at the Wilberforce Institution. This institution has produced generations of leaders in various sectors of society and industry.
It was the first African independent school that had ever opened in the Transvaal. From the start, Wilberforce faced a plethora of challenges, one being to develop a program that would deal with children from poor socio-economic backgrounds (when other mission schools, including government schools, did not) as well as set educational standards that would meet South Africa’s economic needs. As an independent school that did not enjoy grant-in-aid from the government, Wilberforce was left to struggle alone, and thanks to the local communities, it survived those difficult times. It was embraced by the local community as one of the local achievements that reacted against the colonial marginalisation of Africans. While other mission schools were enjoying government funding during the apartheid era from the apartheid government, Wilberforce was solely funded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was seen by the local communities in Evaton and elsewhere in South Africa and beyond, as a liberator of the Black majority.
Around 1892, two relatives of Mokone, Kate and Charlotte Mannya were studying at the Wilberforce University in America. Kate wrote to Mokone telling him about the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), which her sister Charlotte had joined. While it was Kate who wrote to her uncle, Rev Mokone, about the AME church in America, it was Charlotte who was very instrumental in getting him to initiate discussions to join it. It can then be said that she was the driving force behind the founding of the AME church in South Africa. On her return, she worked for the church body, mind and soul. She married Rev Marshall Maxeke, and they did missionary work for the AME Church in South Africa. In 1908, under the auspices of the AME church, they founded the Wilberforce Institute in Evaton, The history of the Wilberforce Institute shows that the curriculum she introduced at the institution was based on the “whole person”, clearly indicating the dedication Maxeke had to her church, the students, the institution as well as her country.