By Alungile Boqwana
The month of July is significant in the global calendar as the world celebrates the life and legacy of the late great leader, Nelson Mandela. As an annual celebration, the United Nations officially declared Nelson Mandela International Day in November 2009. Since then, every 18 July, Mandela's birthday, people from all walks of life are rallied to action to recognise their power to make a difference in the lives of those around them. In commemorating this day, Rhodes University, in partnership with Standard Bank's Tutuwa Community Foundation, hosted a celebration at Khutliso Daniels Secondary School to recognise the Bank's significant contributions to uplifting education in the Eastern Cape. The School is one of 67 schools that received brightly painted water tanks from Standard Bank for Mandela Day.
The Mandela Day event was well attended by the different people from the greater Makhanda community. Attendees included: school principals, teachers, Rhodes University staff, students and Rhodes University volunteer Mentors. The event was also attended by some notable dignitaries, including Professor Sizwe Mabizela (Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University), Zanele Twala (the CEO of The Standard Bank Tutuwa Community Foundation), Di Hornby (Director of the Community Engagement Division, Rhodes University), Duane Grobler (Manager for Distribution, Client Coverage & Consumer Clients at Standard Bank) and Bhongo Bavuma (Makhanda Standard Bank Branch Manager) and Radio Mcuba (Khutliso Daniels Secondary School Principal).
Professor Mabizela welcomed all attendees, extending his deep gratitude to Standard Bank and the Tutuwa Community Foundation for their visionary leadership in investing in the education of South African youth. Professor Mabizela encouraged the young people in attendance to show gratitude to Standard Bank by excelling in their studies.
He added, "Any nation that doesn't look after its youth has no future and does not deserve one. There is no better investment in any nation than ensuring that young people have access to quality education. That is what Standard Bank and Tutuwa Community are all about."
In his closing remarks, Professor Mabizela discouraged the youth from engaging in substance abuse and to invest instead in their educational aspirations. He also encouraged the educators in attendance to continue the noble fight of educating tomorrow's leaders. He told them, "Yours is not a job but a call to serve our nation; it is about passion. We can all work together to build a better and brighter future."
Anna Talbot, the Coordinator at Rhodes University's Community Engagement Division, recounted how the water availability challenges at preschools in Makhanda are being addressed. More specifically, Talbot noted that, in 2019, as part of the National Arts Festival, Standard Bank ran a "Snap-for-Water' campaign which raised R200, 000 for installing 19 water tanks and gutters at 15 preschools in Makhanda. This project was very successful, as these preschools did not previously have access to clean water for hygiene and drinking purposes.
A significant part of this project was the training of 'school water supervisors' who were tasked with responsibilities such as testing the water before consumption and the general safety protocols of water use. It is worth noting that Thandi Ngqowana, a Master's student from Rhodes University, developed these water testing kits.
Talbot's address was followed by a contribution by Ms Nolubabalo 'Babsy' Makombe, a staff member of GADRA Matric School based in Makhanda. GADRA Matric School has become the most prominent feeder school for Rhodes University in Makhanda. It only focuses on learners who have previously done matric and gives them a second chance to get a bachelor's pass. Makombe highlighted the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships in creating a successful matric programme at the School, which has become a vehicle for the previously disadvantaged youth of Makhanda to access tertiary education.
According to Makombe, "When you're coming from a disadvantaged background, it is not always easy to dream. These young people are now in a space where they can dream of who they want to become."
In 2012, only nine learners from local non-fee-paying schools could access Rhodes University. In 2015, this number increased to 19, and by 2021, this number had risen to 58 learners. In her closing remarks, Makombe thanked all the relevant stakeholders of the GADRA School, more especially Standard Bank, for recognising the need to harness the educational potential of the youth of Makhanda.
Di Hornby, the Director of the Community Engagement Division at Rhodes University, added an additional statistic to validate Makombe's point. According to Hornby, "The number of these young people getting access to Rhodes University has increased to 138 learners in 2022. Competition has been replaced by collaboration, transforming the landscape of public education in Makhanda."
Onesimo Sobhuye, the Leaners President of Khutliso Daniels Secondary School, highlighted the positive impact these programmes have had on their School. She addressed Standard Bank and Tutuwa: "I would like to express my sincerest thanks to you for sponsoring our education. Without your most generous contribution, I do not know how we would have managed to balance our studies. We appreciate what you have done for us."
Speaking on behalf of all teachers at Khutliso Secondary Schools, Principal Radio Ncube said, "Through the mentoring programme, the quality of our education has improved."
Bhongo Bavuma, a member of the Standard Bank team, indicated that as part of their Mandela Day activities, the Bank had sponsored 67 water tanks across South African schools. Furthermore, the Bank has donated 6700 pairs of shoes to schools across the Eastern Cape Province. The CEO of the Tutuwa Community Foundation, Zanele Twala, was the last speaker of the day. Her address was mainly directed at encouraging the young people in attendance to prioritise their education, as it is an effective vehicle to transform their lives for the better. She also encouraged the students to see the value of the province they live in, as it has produced world-class leaders such as the former president Nelson Mandela and many others. Lastly, she highlighted that these leaders held the following values: humility, conviction, respect and integrity.
The event can best be described as a success, as it showed the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration in effecting lasting change.