Initial education requirements set in the 19th century in the Free State were not high, and it was considered adequate if a person could read and write. This perception restricted educational development in the early years of the Free State.
However, in 1895, legislation was introduced which made education compulsory. The legislation was later expanded so that all White children between the ages of 10-16 years had to attend school for at least two years.
Many children, especially those in the lower income bracket, still did not attend school and preferred to work in shops or offices. To cater for these children, a so-called Armskool was established which provided evening classes for the poorer children.
By 1899, there were 2088, we assume, White pupils in Bloemfontein, of which 456 received free education. However, the Volksraad was against the idea of a separate school for the poorer children and decided to establish the Home and Industrial School for younger boys in 1898.
In the early years of Bloemfontein, private schools played a very important role. Bearing in mind that the population was predominately English speaking, these schools were usually administered under the auspices of an English Church Society where English was used as a medium of instruction. However, the population of these private institutions faded during the Republican years that followed.
In 1854, a boarding school for boys and girls was established by P. Hoendervangers, who played an important role in the educational development of Bloemfontein. Hoendervangers also established the Free School which opened in 1858.
In 1857, an English school was opened by C Wilmot at the back of the house of M Hopkins, while Mrs. De Jongh opened a training college for young girls in the same year.
There was also the so-called Grammar School which eventually gave rise to the establishment of St. Andrew’s Diocesan College in 1874.
In the same year, an Infant School was opened by Miss Dunn on the corner of Green and Fountain Streets.
Most private schools were aimed at the refinement and education of young ladies from wealthy families.
Five other prominent government schools were also established namely; Grey College which opened on 17 January 1858, the so-called Dames Instituut or Eunice which opened on 5 June 1876, St Andrews College for Boys, St Andrews Seminar for Girls, which was known as the Home and later became known as St Michaels and the Wesleyan School which was the only school for both boys and girls in Bloemfontein.
The Green Hill Convent was opened in 1871 by the Roman Catholic Church.
Two Non-White schools were established for Non-Whites, both under the auspices of the Anglican Church. St Philips Schools was the first, which later amalgamated with the Good Shepherd School in 1895. This accommodated the Coloureds or so-called Basters and was located at the church in Waaihoek.
St Patrick School was the second school and was also located in Waaihoek. By 1896 the school building was so dilapidated that the church building had to be used.
In 1896, a small school was opened in Kaffirfontein, approximately 3,2km out of town.
In comparison to the amount of White schools opened during this time, it is clear that Black education was not a priority for the government in Bloemfontein.