Madiba inspired school changes lives

Thursday, July 24, 2014

By Chris Bathembu

For many years, children in Mvezo village in the Eastern Cape – the birthplace of former President Nelson Mandela – have been forced to drop out of school after passing Grade 9. 

This is because the village did not have a high school and for those children who wanted to pursue education beyond Grade 9, it meant travelling to neighbouring towns such as Mthatha and Idutywa, which are situated far away from their homes.   

But the Mandela School of Science and Technology, which opened its doors in Mvezo earlier this year, is changing the lives of many of its pupils. It’s the first comprehensive science high school in the entire rural Transkei that offers subjects like Engineering and Information Technology. Now, government believes more similar schools are needed in rural areas.

President Jacob Zuma, who unveiled a statue of Nelson Mandela’s Grandfather Prince Mandela at the school recently, had nothing but praises for the school and its staff. President Zuma said government was serious about ensuring that all children in disadvantaged communities were exposed to science and technology at school.

 The idea for the school had been born when Madiba said he wanted a high school built in his birthplace. In 2010, telecommunications giant Siemens pledged million of rands towards the school’s construction.

“Nelson Mandela was serious about education, it is something that was close to his heart and wanted to see South Africa succeed,” President Zuma said in Mvezo during this year’s Mandela Day celebrations.  The statue, which stands in front of the imposing building, depicts an image of Prince Mandela who was Madiba’s grandfather, the son of King Ngubengcuka of the Thembu nation.

School Principal Pat Toni, in an interview with SAnews recently, said the school had brought about many changes for the rural community.  The school is highly resourced and has four laboratories and a fully-fledged library and IT Department, as well as an agricultural science department.

“We have very highly qualified teachers for science and mathematics. I think what the school has brought to this village is quality education - something unfortunately that children in rural areas are not used to,” says Toni.

Toni says the statue of Prince Mandela, unveiled by the president at the school, symbolises the active role that is being played by the community within the school.

“It also directs the school towards its roots. The school didn’t just appear; it has its roots embedded in the Mandela legacy.

“The community has embraced the school. We are receiving hundreds of applications and we cannot cope with the demand. Whenever we have a meeting, we have a full hall and the support is amazing.”

The school has brought opportunities that did not exist in the village before.

“It is a school that rises above others in as far as skills are concerned.  It has opened an opportunity for children to walk to the school as compared to the distance they had to travel to study at nearby towns. Science has moved from very far to just around the corner, we are very excited.”

The Mandela school will introduce its first Grade 12 class in 2016 and Toni says several universities have committed to grant bursaries to all deserving pupils from the school. One of the beneficiaries of the school is Nothobile Mapeyi. Her granddaughter Zukuswa was forced to leave home to stay with her aunt in Mthatha after she passed Grade 9 in 2012. But now Zukiswa will be able to do her matric at the Mandela school and will be staying with the family in Mvezo.

“It’s something that really makes me happy. I was not happy when my child had to leave but we had no choice because I wanted her to continue with her studies. Now we have this good school at our door step. The future is looking bright for her,” says Mapeyi.

There are also overseas universities that are lining up to take matriculants from the school after 2016.

“For these reasons, our emphasis is therefore on mathematics and technology because we know the expectation is very high and we are aware that these subjects will open many opportunities for our pupils,” Toni says.

He has promised a 100 per cent matric pass rate from his first group of Grade 12 learners in two years’ time.

“I don’t see a reason why our pupils should not perform at that level; we have everything they need for them to excel.  We expect the children not only to perform ordinary but we expect them to be broader in their research and studies. We inculcate ethos of hard work amongst our teachers and work ethics.

“We tell them they are not in an ordinary school - they are in a school that requires them to work double.” –

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