Pupils living Madiba’s dream

2014-01-17 00:00

MVESO — They were at first afraid that their children would not cope with the subjects, but before long the residents of Mvezo started to help building the Mandela School for Science and Technology (MSST).

Now their children are reaping the fruits of their labour.

The school, which will officially be opened by President Jacob Zuma today, was built after former president Nelson Mandela told Peter Loescher, the former CEO of Siemens, of his dream to have a high school in Mvezo in 2010. Shortly after that the company made available €10 million over R148 million) for the project.

Families in Mvezo seem to have shared Madiba’s dream, as they got together to help build the school. “The land on which the school now stands, used to belong to two families,” said executive director of Siemens South Africa, Rita Nkuhlu.

“They however agreed to relocate and we built the homes near the school.”

The community’s contribution did not end there. “Altogether 160 residents had a part in the building process, of whom 50 received training — and some of them will stay on to maintain the school,” Nkuhlu said. “Fifteen women from Mvezo were also trained in catering, of whom six will ensure that the pupils get breakfast and lunch every day.”

She said it remained a school for the community although Madiba’s dream was turned into reality by Siemens, the Mvezo Development Trust and the Department of Basic Education.

“From Grade 10 pupils can choose to specialise in engineering, science, technology or agriculture — but this was not the plan that we started out with,” Nkuhlu said. “For Siemens engineering was more important, but the parents wanted their children to also be able to learn about farming.”

Acting principal Pat Toni said the school’s first priority remained quality education. “We already started teaching on January 6, and I would like a 100% pass rate during this year. Luckily our 24 teachers are well trained, with five of them having their Masters degrees.”

Although the classes will mostly be given in English, Toni still wants to take into consideration the cultures of his pupils. “The 420 pupils whom we welcomed this year to the school, must take scientific subjects to help them in their future, but they must still remain Xhosa or Thembu.

“If they can however speak English fluently, it will help them with tertiary studies. They may even go overseas as exchange students.”

With the skills that the pupils at the Mandela school will develop, they could become leaders in their fields, said Toni. “Hopefully some of them will plough back their knowledge into the Eastern Cape. The province has a shortage of scientists, engineers and even teachers who can transfer this knowledge.”

Mandla Mandela, founder of the Mvezo development trust and grandson of Madiba, said the pupils may follow in his grandpa’s footsteps. “They must remember that they can be giants one day, even if they start in a humble home.”

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