‘I bought my school’

2020-03-16 15:30
Hermannsburg School held an open day on Saturday. Pictured are Zola Nkumla, the new owner of the school, and Trevor Harbottle, the principal.PHOTO: nash narrandes

Hermannsburg School held an open day on Saturday. Pictured are Zola Nkumla, the new owner of the school, and Trevor Harbottle, the principal.PHOTO: nash narrandes

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“In a time when apartheid was prevalent, Hermannsburg School welcomed me with warm arms, and gave me the best schooling career. I want other scholars to experience this too.”

Amongst other reasons, this is why Zola Mkumla grabbed with both hands the opportunity to buy his alma mater.

Mkumla was in Grade 7 at Fezokuhle Senior Primary in Imbali when he was identified as a promising pupil by a German teacher from Deutsche Schule Hermannsburg. He was awarded a full bursary to attend the high school in 1993, and matriculated in 1997. Mkumla was then awarded a bursary to study through the University of South Africa where he obtained his Bachelor of Commerce degree. He then went on to complete a post-graduate diploma in Business Management.

Despite facing a challenging background growing up, Mkumla is now a successful businessman and philanthropist.

With his sisters, Mkumla founded the Dikeledi Mkumla Foundation Trust in 2013, which has facilitated access to high-quality education for many pupils in the Pietermaritzburg area.

Between 2005 and 2008, Mkumla occupied an executive position at First National Bank (FNB), and he chaired the bank’s SETA IT committee. After 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 sold this interest, which allowed him to purchase and revitalise Hermannsburg School.

A source told The Witness that Deutsche Schule Hermannsburg had been funded by the German government until 2015. Due to some changes in the system, the German funders said for them to continue with the funding, the school would have to adopt a German syllabus, which was not feasible.

The school lost the funding, and that’s when Mkumla stepped forward and bought it.

Mkumla told The Witness that his love for education, inspired by his late mother, led him to buy the school.

“Education has always been important in our family. It opens doors and can be a healthy cycle for many black South Africans. Through it, people can gain the knowledge and wisdom to go back home and better their family’s living conditions,” he said.

Mkumla said he intends making Hermannsburg School feel like home for the pupils and staff who board there. He said since the change in ownership in January, the school has already procured a new vehicle fleet to safely transport pupils, has started a golf academy, and is planning the refurbishment of the classrooms and boarding facilities.

“I don’t want anybody to feel like they are in jail. Happy staff means happy learners,” he said.

Mkumla said the greatest gift Hermannsburg School gave him was the lifelong friends he made there, and the discipline that he was taught.

“I have never had any issues in the workplace because I was taught the importance of working hard and working well with those around you. I took all that I was taught at Hermannsburg and practised it in my adult life. That’s how I got where I am today,” he said.

The principal of Hermannsburg School, Trevor Harbottle, said the school looks forward to a new and exciting path under Mkumla and his team’s care.

“We will continue to offer educational excellence, for which Hermannsburg is so well known,” he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  pmb people

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