MICHAEL Stern, who founded a school for the children of the elite who went on to spread ideas of equality throughout southern Africa., has died in a car accident near Hindhead at the age of 80.

He will be remembered throughout southern Africa as a man of overwhelming moral principles who, in midlife, risked everything to defy apartheid by founding in Africa a school which catered for the children of men and women who went on to reshape and redefine the aspirations of the world's most troubled continent. Honoured in 1968 by the Queen with an OBE for his services to Commonwealth education, Stern was also mightily praised by Nelson Mandela who applauded him for defying apartheid so that the light of freedom would one day shine throughout the darkest and poorest of all continents.

Michael Alexander Stern was born in Egypt in 1922, into an imperial-style English family. His father TH Stern was a British civil engineer with a missionary background who was murdered by an Arab in Iraq in 1931.

At nine, he found himself living alongside grandparents and maiden aunts in Dartmouth. He gave most people the feeling that he'd like to keep them at arm's length while instructing them with something useful, practical, and Christian at the same time.

Educated in England, he showed early promise and enjoyed the new direction given to him by his somewhat flamboyant new stepfather, Lieutenant-Colonel Roland Hamilton, who became a Labour MP under Clement Atlee's leadership in 1945.

Stern read English under the great FR Leavis. at Cambridge University but war came between him and a degree. He served with the Royal Signals in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, and Greece. Stern returned to Cambridge as a captain and was addressed as such by porters and some students for years


In 1955, the still young Stern read an article about the growth of apartheid in South Africa and how it was tearing apart African education. It was penned by Father Trevor Huddleston, author of the massively influential Naught for Your Comfort.

In response, Stern abandoned a teaching career in England and went to live in South Africa, becoming headmaster of St Peter's Secondary School for Africans in Johannesburg.

When it was closed by the authorities, he started a new school called St Margaret's which he wanted to run along liberal-Christian ideals. But the development of ''scientific'' apartheid, which sought to separate the races so that they ''developed'' along totally different cultural lines forever, cut across his dream.

He did the only thing possible and left South Africa for a neighbouring ''free'' country.

Seven miles outside Mbabane, capital city of the tiny mountain kingdom of Swaziland (in 1963 still a British protectorate), Stern founded a new non-racial Christian-oriented school, which became famous the world over - Waterford Kamhlaba.

Kamhlaba is a Swazi word which, loosely translated, means one world. It was given to the original Waterford School by His Majesty King Sobhuza 11 Ngwenyama of Swaziland when he visited Stern and his small band of mixed-race students and staff of 10 in 1967.

Harry Oppenheimer (one of the world's richest men and the owner of most of the mines where so many blacks lived, worked, and died) was an early financial and moral patron. So was Robert Kennedy.

Today, with more than 500 students and a staff of over 60, Waterford KaMhlaba is associated with an American educational network which promotes schools of excellence all over

the world.

Despite blistering attacks from Pretoria, the school flourished and Stern went on to become a southern African legend.

Nelson Mandela sent his daughters there. So did Desmond Tutu and Walter Sisulu .

During his years at Waterford KaMhlaba, Stern displayed a fearsome energy, teaching blacks and whites Latin as well as introducing them to the glories of English literature, the Classics, the Christian religion, and


But 10 years after he founded the famous mountain school, he met Jim Bailey, founder/owner of the influential African magazine Drum. Bailey recruited Stern who left Swaziland for London to manage Drum and its two sister publications, Trust and True Love.

But he did not stay in Fleet Street long and soon returned to the world he really knew - the schoolroom. He became superintendent of the adolescent unit at the Beeches Children's Home in Sidcup and from 1976-1980, principal of Millfield Children's Home in Highgate.

In 1986, at the age of 65, he married for the first time. His young wife gave birth to a girl but soon after she died and Michael Stern - who had cared for and loved children all his life- had two of his own to look after, a tiny baby and a young stepson. With his new family he started life all over again and a few weeks before his tragic road accident near Hindhead he was teaching Latin to young students

Michael Stern , teacher; born January 13,1922, died July 14, 2002.