Plumtree School

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Plumtree School
Plumtree School Crest.png
Ad Definitum Finem (Latin for To a definite end)
Plumtree, Matabeleland
Type Private, boarding
Established 1902
Acting headmaster Mr. C. Hepburn
Pupils 500 (approx.)

Plumtree School is a boarding school for boys in the Matabeleland region of Zimbabwe on the border with Botswana. Founded in 1902 by a railway mission, its headmaster Robert Woodward Hammond steered it into one of the leading schools in Southern Africa.

Plumtree School boards 500+ boys. A number of pupils who attend the school are from neighbouring Botswana, Zambia and South Africa. The original school consisted of only nine pupils, the nine plums that appear on the school crest.

The school curriculum adheres to Ordinary Level and Advanced Level courses.

Every student must play at least one sport each term. Students have represented the country in student sports, with many a captain among them. Other pursuits include a cattle club, a metalwork club and a motor mechanics course.

Historical background[edit]

In 1897 a siding on the railway line between Mafeking and Bulawayo was named Plumtree. It lies on the watershed of the Western Matabeleland Highveld at an altitude of 1389 metres some 100 kilometres from Bulawayo. During that time, the construction of the Cape-to-Cairo railway was underway and around 1902 the railway had just come through what was then the Bechuanaland Border.

The School itself was founded by the Railway Mission largely to cater for the children of the employees of the old Cape Government Railways at work on the Cape-to-Cairo railway who were resident alongside the line between Mafeking and Bulawayo. As such, the school was subsequently used in service of the children on New Rhodesia and Bechuanaland. The first classes were held in a rondavel situated in the garden of Mr. And Mrs. S. J. Smith whose nine children formed the nucleus of the student body. Subsequently classes were moved to the dining room of the Plumtree Hotel which doubled as the Station Refreshment room. A little later a large room was made available in the customs house.

In 1902 the school moved to the present site. The original 5-acre (20,000 m2) plot was steadily extended so that the school now occupies a one square kilometre site bordering on Plumtree village. Adjacent to the school is a five square kilometre tract of wooded land on which the school has developed dams and this forms a pleasant recreational area for the boys.

School crest[edit]

The school crest was designed in around 1909. The name Plumtree had to be incorporated and so there is the conventional tree in the middle with plums the size of water melons hanging among the foliage.

The school was started as a school for the children of railway employees. Plumtree was the site decided upon because at that time, 1901, a railway family stationed there had many children of various ages and they almost made a school in and of themselves. Other children came from other railway sidings up and down the line. The nine plums represent the first nine students who attended the school in its first year. These students resided in the Hammond Huts as the main hostels were not yet built at that time.

The connection with the railway is shown by the approaching engine, probably copied in the first place from the cover of a railway guide.

The Railway Mission, Church of England, were the promoters and builders of the School and so the anchor is given to show the Church's place in its origin.

The elephant is to denote that the School is in Matabeleland, for an elephant rampant is the badge of that province.

The anchor represents the social link between the school and the Church. The community of Plumtree town affectionately known as "The Village". It symbolises a relationship that bonds the two parties in service to one another.

The pictorial crest is placed above a scroll with the School motto - "Ad Definitum Finem" - "To a Definite End"


Gaul House

The school is on an expansive campus at the edge of Plumtree town. It is divided into houses:

  • Milner House (built in 1911) Head of House 2015 : Mangombe A - purple and black
  • Lloyd House (built in 1924) Head of House 2015 : Mbiza Leslie - pink/red
  • Grey House (built in 1926) Head of House 2015 : Bugalo R - blue
  • Gaul House (built in 1941) Head of House 2015 : Chiwashira S - orange/yellow

and a boarding hall Hammond Hall (1976) (Head of House 2015 : Ndhleleni T).

Hammond Hall is for boys entering their first year of high school and serves as an introduction (for the new boys), to the boarding life and general ethos of the school. The boys 'graduate' to their main boarding houses in their second year. Each house is named after prominent individuals who fostered the school's progress.
"Tom Sawyer" 2001


The school is steeped in traditions, some of which are a century old. Musical productions are put on for the annual sports week-end in the first term. Juniors in their first year have compulsory auditions especially as an unbroken voice is ideal to fill a leading female role or the seemingly predominantly female chorus. Plumtree's Gilbert and Sullivan productions were amongst very few amateur productions in the world permitted to be performed outside London.

In recent years, some parents have been outspoken about school's allegedly outmoded system of fagging - where a first or second year boy waits upon and serves the senior boys, as a butler would performing menial tasks such as cleaning sports kit, tidying seniors' rooms(studies) etc. However, this system - together with the general "privilege" system that underpins the school's ethos and sense of discipline - is carefully monitored by the staff, housemasters and prefects. Plumtree School's rigorous structure of traditions and concepts date back to similar styles found in pre-1900 British public schools.

The Plumtree School boy is expected to be tough resillient and most importantly proud of his school . These traits are drilled into the boys from their first day in the school .They are also required to recite the Plumtree School Ideal everyday before after Roll call ;

           A young Man with Good Manners of Honesty and integrity
           Respectful of his Own and Others Property
           Respectful of his Elders, particularly those
           Who Give up their time for his own benefit
           Proud of Himself and Plumtree
           Determined to acquit himself well
           Even when the chips are down

Plus the Poem, Build Me A Man

            Build Me a man who's strong and true whose purpose is straight and Clear
            Build me a man who'll make me laugh whenever my heart is filled with fear
            Build me a man who'll hold his course whatever race he ran
            For our country's great good Plumtree Build Me A Man
1st XV Rugby on Kabot Field

School system[edit]

The school prides itself upon a 'seniority system' which is put in place to maintain discipline and provide a sense of order. A system where prefects may delegate duties to younger boys and thus work together to achieve a common goal. Sometimes these privileges are abused by the seniors and some cases of bullying have been uncovered in recent years. For example, First Years are not allowed to walk anywhere in the school with the exception of Hammond Hall and the School Quad. They are expected to jog or run everywhere else and should they be summoned by a senior they should immediately sprint to said senior.

Younger boys are expected to greet their seniors and whenever they talk to someone in the year above they are expected to address them as Senior then surname, usually shortened to e.g. C Smith. Previously younger boys could be punished for any form of disrespect usually by being forced to do pressups, sprints and various other physical activities .


Students dress in khakhi shirts and pants with knee-high grey socks and either black shoes or veldskoens to attend class and in general around the school. In winter, in addition, the boys wear white undervests, grey jerseys with green stripes across the neck or the green and red school tacksuit. White floppy hats with the school badge are worn when needed. To chapel and special occasions (or going home for the weekend), students wear their Best Dress (No 1's). i.e. a clean long sleeved white shirt(with sleeves rolled up to the elbows: for 3rd years and below), long grey flannels, short grey socks, polished black shoes and the mandatory green blazer. To the sports field: whites are mandatory and either shirt, t-shirt rugby jersey, vest or swimming trunks depending on the sport being played. Students are required to leave their hostels in full tracksuit when going to the sports field.

Prefects wear white instead of khakhi shirts to depict their leadership, black instead of grey flannels and a pin strip tie in place of the regular bold strip tie.

Old Prunitians[edit]

Alumni of the school are referred to as "Old Prunitians". The etymology of the word "Prunitian" is from the naming of a dried plum, a prune, hence the term Prunitian.

Notable alumni[edit]

Thamsanqa Jongile (Leeuwarden Hockey Netherlands)

See also[edit]


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 20°29′11″S 27°48′35″E / 20.4864°S 27.8098°E / -20.4864; 27.8098