Lawhill’s maritime studies programme is one of very few examples of a specific industry playing a role, at secondary school level, in providing industry-focused education which improves the school leaver’s chances of finding employment.

Simon’s Town School’s Lawhill Maritime Centre began as a pilot programme in 1995. The aim of the programme was to support job creation and employment in South Africa by providing 15 to 18 year old students with maritime-related knowledge and skills while they are still at school, thereby increasing their prospects for post-school employment or admission to maritime-related courses at tertiary institutions.

The programme – which involved members of industry, Safmarine, educationalists and Simon’s Town School – aimed to stimulate maritime awareness among young people, attract them to the shipping industry and provide the industry with high quality, skilled and knowledgeable employees.

Since its inception, more than 1000 young South Africans have passed through the Lawhill programme, many of them pursuing successful careers in the maritime industry, both ashore and at sea, while others have gone on to make their mark in other industries.

Because the Lawhill Maritime Centre receives no state funding, its students – the majority of whom come from financially-stressed homes – are reliant on bursaries provided by the maritime and related industries to fund their education from Grade 10 to 12.

“Many schools do a good job of educating the youth, but few schools prepare young students for a career. A school such as the Lawhill Maritime Centre at Simons Town High is exactly what South Africa needs considering the country’s high levels of unemployment.” – Sean Day, South-African born former chairman of the Teekay Corporation.

South Africa is a young nation, with more than half of its population under the age of 25. We’re also a nation with an unacceptably high unemployment rate and the STS Lawhill Maritime Studies programme has been hailed as an example to other industries wishing to address the issue of youth unemployment and poverty in a meaningful, practical and sustainable way.

The STS Lawhill Maritime Centre is totally non-racial and the Maritime Studies course is available to qualifying young South Africans.

The majority of our students are drawn from disadvantaged communities all over South Africa. (See News/Achievements for information on past and current students)

The STS Lawhill Maritime Centre currently offers three specialised subjects (Maritime Economics , Nautical Science and Marine Sciences) for students in Grades 10, 11 and 12.

To take the subjects, a student must have a good pass in Grade 9 and if he/she wishes to take Nautical Science, he/she must gain 60% in Mathematics and Natural Sciences in Grade 9 as both of these subjects – and Marine Sciences – are compulsory for Nautical Science.

In addition to the maritime subjects, students are also required to take two languages; Mathematics; Physical Science and Life Orientation.

These courses are open to day-students at Simon’s Town School and are compulsory for those boarding at the STS Lawhill Maritime Centre.

MARITIME ECONOMICS is designed for students to proceed into the maritime industry ashore and deals with topics such as maritime geography, port studies, maritime trade patterns, the structure of the local shipping industry, various aspects of ship operation and chartering, the bunker trade, ships’ agency procedures, ship-broking, cargo clearing, and maritime ecology.

Click here for more details on the Maritime Economics Syllabus for Grades 10 – 12.

NAUTICAL SCIENCE prepares students directly for a career at sea and covers seamanship, coastal and astro-navigation, ship construction, cargo stowage, ship stability, and various other aspects of marine science.

Forming an integral part of the school curriculum, the syllabi for these subjects were approved by the South African education authority as full subjects for the national and provincial Senior Certificate examinations from 1998.

Click here for more details on the Nautical Science Syllabus for Grades 10 – 12

 MARINE SCIENCES  was added as a third subject in the 2020 academic year after a successful pilot in 2019.   More information on the Marine Sciences curriculum can be found here.

“Simon’s Town’s maritime studies programme is not only unique in South Africa or Africa but is also possibly the only facility of its kind in the world. It’s a model for the successful partnerships that can be established in education.” – Premier of the Western Cape in 2010, Helen Zille, speaking at the opening of the new Lawhill Maritime Centre in March 2010.

How many students can be accommodated at Lawhill and where are they drawn from?

  • The STS Lawhill Maritime Centre currently provides instruction for approximately 100 day students (across the 3 grades) and a maximum of 67 boarders (29 male and 38 female).
  • Our students are typically aged between 15 and 17/18 years.
  • The Centre is totally non-racial and the courses are available to young South Africans who meet the entry requirements (space permitting).
  • Students are predominantly drawn from disadvantaged communities in Greater Cape Town and all over South Africa.
  • Applications to study at the STS Lawhill Maritime Centre need to be made in Grade 9. (See below)

How do I apply for admission to the STS Lawhill Maritime Centre – what are the minimum requirements?  Applications are welcomed from Grade 9 students for Grade 10 the following year.  More details here.

What are the post-school employment prospects of students upon leaving Lawhill?

By the time our students leave our programme, they have a considerable body of knowledge and skills pertinent to the shipping industry.

If they wish to work ashore they have the foundation they need for entering the industry as a trainee in fields such as liner operations, port operations, ship’s agents, shipbrokers, the clearing and forwarding sector and bunkering, amongst others.

After a further year specialising in navigation or marine engineering at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (Cape Town) or the Durban University of Technology (Durban), those who wish to work at sea can, find employment as cadets or ratings aboard merchant vessels (e.g. containerships, tankers, bulk carriers or tugs) or in the Navy or in the fishing industry.

Although our record of placement in maritime-related careers is high – because of our close and excellent working relationship with the maritime industry – further employment cannot be guaranteed and the onus rests entirely on the learner to apply for and obtain employment.

We also suggest that all prospective learners consult third party websites for details about the careers available at sea, and the process of entering those careers.  Please visit

For more Frequently Asked Questions click on the link below:

FAQ-updated 2022

“.. Then I discovered (Lawhill) South Africa’s best-kept secret and a possible solution to the crisis of education and unemployment. We can continue on our current path and offload tens of thousands of unemployed youth onto the streets…or we can follow the inspiring example of Simon’s Town School. “– Professor Jonathan Jansen, leading educational authority in South Africa

Lawhill’s modern building – generously donated by the TK Foundation (Bahamas) and several other donors – provides comfortable accommodation, dining and recreational facilities for up to 54 students who live away from Simon’s Town and its environs.

The expansive sea views are one of the best features of the two-bed dormitories at Lawhill which provides a safe, homely environment which is highly conducive to learning.

There is separate accommodation for boys and girls and besides the boarders’ accommodation; the Centre also includes two custom-built classrooms for the teaching of Maritime Economics, Nautical Science.and Marine Sciences.

All other classes are taught on the main campus of Simons Town School, which is across the road from the Lawhill Maritime Centre.

Only students doing these maritime-related courses on bursaries are accommodated at the Lawhill Maritime Centre, which is named after the famous South African sailing ship in which many leaders of the country’s maritime industry sailed and trained in the 1940s.

A very strict code of conduct applies to all boarders and those taking the maritime subjects.

The Lawhill Maritime Centre has a proud reputation of positive behaviour, a wonderful work ethic and an enthusiastic approach to academic work.

Discipline, mutual respect, dedication and commitment are an integral part of the Lawhill Maritime Centre.

“This is a facility which would one day provide a solid job, decent pay and a bright future for talented young people from less advantaged backgrounds.
The Lawhill Maritime Centre gives children from these backgrounds a safe, comfortable place to study towards a career in an industry that needs them. There is no better way to help young people than to give them an education.”– Ms Susan Karlshoej, Chairlady of the TK Foundation and daughter of the founder of the Teekay Corporation, speaking at the opening of the new Lawhill Maritime Centre in March 2010

It is often said that it takes a ‘village to raise a child’ and this is particularly true at the STS Lawhill Maritime Centre

Here, the support provided by the extended ‘Lawhill family’ goes far beyond simply taking care of the educational needs of the young people who are placed in our care.

Our aim, at Lawhill, is to give our students a broader horizon in life and to help develop cheerful, confident, disciplined and motivated achievers; well-rounded individuals who will, upon leaving Lawhill, not only achieve success in their careers but contribute meaningfully to their communities and to society at large.

As such, the Centre is strictly managed to provide a structured, disciplined, yet pleasant and stimulating environment which prepares young people for future success.

The professional management of Lawhill is also key to maintaining the ongoing support of our funders.

Simon’s Town School Principal:

Mrs Lucrecia Harrison (Acting)

Lawhill Staff:

Mrs Debbie Owen heads the Maritime Studies programme.

She is supported by Ms Faye Kula, as Programme Administrator.

Mr Aubrey Sosibo currently serves as our Maritime Economics Educator.

The current Nautical Science instructors (freelance) are Commander Grove and Captain Louwrens.

Mrs Norma Karsten is the Hostel Parent.

“I grew up in a township near Durban and never knew anything about this industry; I didn’t even know a maritime industry existed in South Africa. Lawhill Maritime Centre has helped to open the doors to a future I could never have dreamt of and the course at Lawhill has taught me discipline, punctuality and responsibility – and that accomplishment is a hard journey and not a destination.” – Zusiphe Mzotho (student) speaking at the 2011 Lawhill awards ceremony.