Madiba magic breathes new life into Soweto school

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mandela Day is an annual celebration of Madiba's life and a global call for action for people to recognise their individual power to make an imprint and change the world around them. Today the icon turns 94 years old.

The no-fee school's buildings, which first opened its doors in 1972, have not been upgraded except for the computer lab, which was installed in an existing classroom.

The interior and the exterior of the school remain untouched and the infrastructure tells a story of the school, with major concerns being falling ceilings, old plumbing and toilets in need of repairs.

But thanks to Mandela Day, the school has received the much needed revamp as LeadSA, the Department of Basic Education, celebrities and other stakeholders gathered to help the school.

The day's activity started at 8am, as the little voices from pupils braved the cold winter morning to sing happy birthday to the former President.

Just before 9am, the volunteers, which included Basic Education Deputy Minister Enver Surty and Miss South Africa Melinda Bam, rolled up their sleeves, to paint the perimeter fence and classrooms.

Others prepared to give the school's garden a makeover and plant trees, clean the storeroom and classrooms, as well as re-fencing, sorting out the library and upgrading the staffroom, among others.

The volunteers, who included local unemployed people, will engage the children in arts, crafts, drama, science and sport.

Surty said Mandela Day was more than a celebration of Nelson Mandela's life and legacy - it was a global movement to take his life's work into a new century and change the world for the better.

He called on South Africans to stand up and do the right thing and make a difference, despite the many challenges that the country faces. "It's a day to inspire hope, take action and make change."

He called on educators across the country to ensure that children of SA receive quality education.

The Deputy Minister said the campaign to alleviate the infrastructure backlog in primary schools in poor communities in the country will make a significant contribution to fulfilling Mandela's dream for every child to be educated.

"Tata placed a huge emphasis on the provision of quality education for all and the Department of Basic Education is committed to realise this goal," he said.

LeadSA's Yusuf Abramjee said the country needed to make every day a Mandela Day. He challenged people to look around and see what change they could make in the country.

School principal Paul Ramela was excited about the upgrades which have had a ripple effect on his staff. Ramela, who was once a pupil at the school, wished that initiatives like these could be done on daily basis.

Miss South Africa, who was dressed in casual jeans, urged fellow South Africans to lead by Mandela's great example and assist the country's needy.

"Everyone can make the change no matter how small. I don't think it's a challenge to find a cause, community, an old age home or even a school that needs your help."

Seeing the needs of the school, IT company AG Software has adopted the school for two years. The company says they are looking at improving the infrastructure of the school first before seeing to other needs.

They have also committed to building a media centre at the school, hosting fundraising days and uplifting the community.

Surty said this was proof that the private sector could partner with government for the general good and upliftment of the country.