Building son’s legacy

2019-12-25 06:00
Thembi Mtshali stands at the gate of Siyabonga Academy of Excellence school in Henley Dam that she built in memory of her late son, Siyabonga (inset).

Thembi Mtshali stands at the gate of Siyabonga Academy of Excellence school in Henley Dam that she built in memory of her late son, Siyabonga (inset).

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TO keep her late son’s legacy alive, a Henley Dam mother has built a school to commemorate his memory.

Thembi Mtshali (52) said the private school, Siyabonga Academy of Excellence, was the brainchild of her son, Siyabonga, who died in October last year.

Siyabonga was only 20 years old when he died but his mother said he had already managed to pay lobola for his girlfriend and got married, he had started a skills and training company while studying economics at UKZN, bought a site in Henley Dam and built his family a home in three months, and opened a family trust where he invested the profits of his business.

Recalling her son’s death, Mtshali said Siyabonga had started complaining about a burning pain inside his chest. “He was vomiting blood clots and we had taken him to several private hospitals but they all couldn’t tell us what was wrong with him.

“One doctor referred us to Edendale Hospital as there was a team of doctors there who could come together and figure out what was wrong with him.

“We took him to Edendale and they found that he had eaten something poisonous. No one knew what poison it was or what he had eaten, and he eventually died.”

After her son’s death, Mtshali was diagnosed with acute depression and is still on antidepressants.

But instead of allowing the loss of her beloved son consume her, the grieving mother decided to carry out her son’s dreams with hopes of keeping his legacy of empowering others alive.

“He used to tell me how concerned he was about there being children who were hungry for quality education but couldn’t afford private schools. He then bought the school site, which is about four hectares, where he had planned to build a school but he unfortunately died before he could.

“The idea of the school was very close to his heart, he spoke about it every day. So it was only fit that I carry on where he left off,” said Mtshali.

Using the money from the family trust fund, Mtshali and her family started building the school in May this year.

The school, which cost them just over R2,6 million to build, was officially launched last week, along with a book about Siyabonga’s life, titled A Giant in a Boy’s Body.

“The book speaks about his life and how he had carried himself from a young age. When his father left us, Siyabonga assumed the head of the household role and took care of me and his two brothers. “The book is a motivation to other young boys out there that you don’t have to be over 35 years old to be a man, but it’s your actions that make you a man.

“In his short life, he had accomplished so much. I always say that he died early because everything that God had planned for him, he had accomplished,” said Mtshali.

She said the school takes children from crèche to Grade 7, with classes of not more than 20 pupils. In 2021, they will incorporate a high school.

“What makes this school unique is that it focuses on practical skills and computer science. Siyabonga wanted the school to have a huge hall, so that the community of Henley Dam, which is still a developing area, would also utilise the hall.” During the day, the hall will function as a practical skills centre focusing on agriculture and marketing skills.

Mtshali said they will be training the youth who have learning disabilities and those who dropped out from school while they earn a monthly stipend from AgriSETA.

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