The Salvation Army: Usher Institute

The Salvation Army

Usher Institute

The Usher Institute was established by the Salvation Army at Leighwoods farm near Figtree, Southern Rhodesia in 1933 by then Staff Captain Salhus and his wife, but has its origins in the work of pioneer Salvationist James Henry Usher and his wife Jessie who informally began teaching Africans living in the area starting in 1906. The school was later named Usher Institute in their honor.

The first class in 1933 consisted of five boys and one girl. By 1935, enrollment had risen to thirty-four. A new classroom block was opened in 1939 with an enrolment of 101 students. Boys were taught “practical subjects” such as Metal work, Gardening, animal husbandry and carpentry while the girls learned needlework, cookery, child line and domestic sciences. Captain and Mrs. Morton came to Usher Institute in the mid-1950’s, establishing a post standard six course in Domestic Sciences in 1956. Major Brigadier Lavinia Benson later started the first Boys Secondary School. Between 1966 and 1970, Usher was under the leadership of Eva Burrows, who would go on to become the 13th General of the Salvation Army (1986 – 1993). It appears that during her tenure, Usher became a secondary boarding school for girls only.

Usher Institute witnessed the tragic murder of two women Salvation Army missionaries, Charon F. Swindells (age 25) and Diane B. Thompson (age 28), by guerrilla fighters on June 7, 1978 during the Bush War. Two other missionaries were injured. Their deaths led to the school’s closure and the Salvation Army withdrawing from the World Council of Churches (which supported the rebels’ cause against the Rhodesian government). As of its closure, Usher had 267 secondary boarding students and 260 primary students, of whom 60 were boarders. The school reopened March 1980 with 240 students.

The school is presently known as Usher Girls High School or Usher Secondary School.


  • Mark Loomis