DESPITE having faced a challenging background during his formative years, Zola Mkumla is now a successful businessman and philanthropist who has made a significant investment into education by purchasing his alma mater, Hermannsburg School, also known as Deutsche Schule Hermannsburg. The school is situated near Greytown, was founded in 1856 and is the oldest private co-educational boarding school in KwaZulu-Natal. Mkumla was in Grade 7 at Fezokuhle Senior Primary (in Mbali Township near Pietermaritzburg) he was identified as a promising young academic by a German teacher from Hermannsburg, and was awarded a full bursary to attend high school at Hermannsburg. He joined the School in Grade 8 in 1993 and, after matriculating in 1997, was granted a bursary by BASF to study through the University of South Africa. After obtaining his Bachelor of Commerce degree, Mkumla went on to complete a Post-Graduate Diploma in Business Management. This in turn led him to an internship position in Germany.Between 2005 and 2008, Mkumla was appointed to an executive position at FNB and chaired the bank’s SETA IT committee. Following his tenure at the bank, he ventured into the sustainable energy sector where he held an interest in three major photovoltaic solar farms in the Northern Cape. After several years in the industry, he has now disposed of this interest which has provided the resources to purchase and revitalize Hermannsburg. Together with his sisters, Funeka and Nompilo, Mkumla founded The Dikeledi Mkumla Education Trust in 2013, which has facilitated access to high-quality education for many scholars in the Pietermaritzburg area. He has extended his commitment to education with the purchase and planned revitalisation of Hermannsburg. Together with the principal, Trevor Harbottle, the staff and the board of directors, Mkumla is formulating and has started to implement. plans to renovate, modernise and improve the school’s facilities. Since the change in ownership in January 2020, the school has already procured a new vehicle fleet to safely transport scholars, has started a golf academy for the scholars, and is planning the refurbishment of the classrooms and boarding facilities.Mkumla credits Hermannsburg as the launching-pad for his successful career. Like his late mother Dikeledi Andronica, who was a career educator, Mkumla has a real passion for education, believing it to be the cornerstone of a strong and thriving economy. Due to economic constraints while growing up, Mkumla and his sisters were not afforded the same opportunities enjoyed by those from advantaged homes, but this did not sway his focus on his future. He has made it his mission to ‘pay it forward’ and to give other young minds the same opportunities he was so fortunate to have been given.— Supplied.