The 23rd of October 2023, marks the 175th anniversary of the foundation of Saint Augustine College which started as Saint Augustine School in the Augustinian Priory of Valletta in 1848. Such event marks also the beginning of the first free Catholic School for Maltese children which also gave way to a long enriching story of the Church’s commitment in education.
The establishment of Saint Augustine’s School
The report of the Royal Commission of 1836 had clearly shown that one of the great deficits in Malta was that of opportunities for the education of children and in a few years, the English Government began to open the first schools. Sensitive to this reality, in 1847 Fr Gaetano Pace Forno O.S.A., who had just been elected Prior Provincial of the Maltese Augustinian Province - and who later served also as bishop of Malta - wrote to the Prior General of the Augustinian Order in Rome and shared with him his idea to invest in a free school for children. The Prior General quickly approved, and expressed his satisfaction for the wonderful idea of such a social initiative which he called great and necessary. The proposed idea was also discussed and unanimously approved in the Provincial Council on 31 August 1848. The than Governor Sir Richard More O'Ferrall, soon gave his approval and expressed his great pleasure for such an initiative.
The first academic year of the Saint Augustine School opened on the 23rd October 1848, with a number of friars taking over the mission of teaching and collaborating in this new mission. Over the years the school continued to develop, but after almost 100 years of tireless work, the Second World War led to the closure of its doors on the 15th January 1941. Although formally closed, it is said that during the war some form of teaching continued to take place at the Priory. The school officially reopened on the 13th October 1948 while celebrating the 100th anniversary of its foundation. It had now adopted a renewed structure of Preparatory Secondary and Secondary School, as proposed by the Department of Education for Secondary Schools. It was now that the school started to be called St Augustine's College.
The College moved to Tarxien and Pieta, followed by an extension in Marsa
The commitment to give good quality education investing in the best resources possible, in 1954 led to the transfer of the College to more suitable spaces that the Province had just acquired in Tarxien. Meanwhile in October 1952 a new class had already been introduced to prepare the apprentices for the Dockyard. In fact, apart from the two preparatory classes and the secondary classes, there were now the much sought apprenticeship classes which were very much needed particularly now that the College was in the Cottonera area.
Although the College in Tarxien had newer spaces, the need to continue developing and growing, and thus even the need for even better facilities, immediately started to be felt. In 1965 the Augustinian Province invested in several buildings and their gardens in Pieta where a new building specifically designed for the educational needs of the time began to be planned. Although the College was transferred to Pieta in 1966, initially the College operated in the original villas with just some minor alterations. The new school building was inaugurated on 1st October 1973 and the new gymnasium followed just two years later.
In 2011, St Augustine College opened once again its Primary sector. An old government school in Marsa started to be used in 2013, and a year later the Province entered in an emphyteusis agreement by which the premises became the Primary School of the College. Since then, an extensive refurbishment project started and in a few years it was transformed into the beautiful school that we have today. The investment in the necessary spaces and resources has never stopped, both in Pieta where several extensions have been made over the years, and also in Marsa.
The College Today
Today, 175 years after its foundation, Saint Augustine College is formed of two schools, the Primary in Marsa and the Secondary in Pieta, and welcomes around 800 students and 170 employees. Over the years much of the educational mission has been passed on to a large number of lay collaborators. Together with the Rector, currently Fr. David Cortis OSA, the College has in its leadership two heads in the respective schools and seven assistant heads. The Augustinian Province together with the leadership team, continued to maintain as a priority a significant presence of a dynamic pastoral service adequate for today’s needs.
The continuous commitment aims to keep investing not only facilities and resources but above all to build an educational community which believes in the development of our children and teenagers giving them the best education making the most of their abilities. This is stated in the Mission Statement of the College when it says that; In a loving and caring environment, we cultivate strong moral and spiritual convictions and academic excellence to our young men.