Methodist Episcopal Church: Old Umtali Mission – Fairfield Girls School

Old Umtali Mission

Fairfield Girls School

The Methodist Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS) opened the Fairfield Girl’s School at Old Umtali Mission (Old Mutare) in 1902 with just one pupil. By 1905, enrollment had increased to 45.  Education consisted of academics in the morning and “industrial work” (home economics/vocational training) consisting of sewing, house work, cooking, laundry and gardening.

In 1910, the school was divided into two departments.  Miss Sophia J. Coffin was in charge of academic classes while Miss Emma D. Nourse oversaw the industrial department. Religious instruction was also provided.  Enrolled grew to 67 as of 1911. Grace Clark joined the staff in 1912, teaching girls sewing and “laundry work.”  Girls were also trained in child care by helping at the Old Umtali orphanage.  In 1938, the school had four WFMS teachers and six native teachers in charge of 219 students (lower and higher primary).  131 of those were boarding students.

Other WFMS missionaries at Fairfield Girls School included Stella Hess (arriving 1915); Fanne Quinton (as of 1917); nurse Bjorklund (as of 1919 began training girls from the girls’ school in hygiene, in addition to her work at the Old Umtali dispensary); Oril Penney (as of 1929); and Jessie Pfaff and H. Wildermth (prior to 1931).

The Fairfield Girl’s School was still in operation as of 1954.  At some point thereafter, the girls school appears to have been integrated with the boy’s school to form a co-educational facility.  As of today, the Old Mutare orphanage, which began as a separate ministry, is known as the Fairfield Children’s Center


  • A History of Christian Missions in Zimbabwe, 1890-1939 – C.J.M. Zvobgo
  • Mark Loomis