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Mandela School of Science & Technology – in remote rural SA

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A new high school is nearing completion in the remote rural village of Mvezo, the birth of place Nelson Mandela. The school has been built by Siemens following a promise made to Mr Mandela during Siemens‚’ 150-year celebrations in South Africa in 2010.

Learners from Mvezo and surrounding areas in Grades 8-12 will no longer need to leave home or travel long distances to receive a high school education.

Despite challenges in delivering building materials to the site because of a lack of infrastructure in the area, made worse during the rainy seasons, the school took just over one year to build. The vast range of construction supplies included around 1,2 million bricks and 18 000 bags of cement.

The Mandela School of Science & Technology is a tribute to Nelson Mandela, who dreamed of a high school in the place of his birth. It will focus on developing interest and knowledge by young people in science and technology, and give learners the option to choose to study science, technology, engineering or agriculture in their last three years of schooling (Grades 10-12).

The school has been built by the parents of some of the children who will attend the school from January next year, or in the future. Most of these adults never went to school themselves. They played an important part in developing the school’s motto: Education is Freedom, inspired by Nelson Mandela’s quote ‚”Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world‚”.

In total, about 150 men and women from Mvezo have been employed during the construction of the school. Many of them were trained in different building skills before they started working on the site, and many will finish the construction as skilled labourers.

The Mandela School of Science & Technology has been made possible by a partnership between Siemens, the Department of Basic Education, and the Mvezo Development Trust, which represents the interests of the people of Mvezo.

‚”We have worked tirelessly together as a team since inception of the project,‚” says Rita Nkuhlu, executive director at Siemens South Africa and lead executive for the project. ‚”While each partner has a distinct role and responsibility, the cooperation and coordination between us has been vital. We all want the school to be a success and to have a huge impact in the short and longer-terms.

‚”The facilities at the school are world-class. Around us, in the Eastern Cape region, enormous challenges remain in education. Many high schools do not even have the bare basics, like desks and chairs. This project shows that when the private sector, government and the community pull together and work towards a clearly defined common goal, great things can occur.

‚”All schools in South Africa should be inspired by the life, work and legacy of Nelson Mandela. The Mandela School of Science & Technology is a tribute to him, and it will become an exemplar for science and technology education in South Africa.‚”

Construction of the school has already bought economic benefits to the area. As well as the jobs created on site, building materials were sourced from local suppliers, while the management and maintenance of the school will be an ongoing catalyst for job creation. School supplies such as catering are also set to create more jobs for local people.

The school is being developed according to Siemens’ sustainability principles, featuring wind and solar energy, energy efficient lighting, automation systems, rainwater capture and water filtration technologies. Students and the community will be trained to maintain the technology.

Says Siegmar Proebstl, Siemens South Africa CEO: ‚”Siemens is a global engineering technology company, and scientists, engineers and technicians across a range of disciplines underpin the continued success of our business. South Africa has a skills crisis, and the lack of qualified science, engineering and technology graduates from its tertiary institutions threatens to curb its development. We need these professionals at Siemens, but the country needs them too – in public agencies, municipalities and business. This is why we have built the Mandela School of Science & Technology in a place where no high school existed until now.‚”

The R100-million investment in the Mandela School of Science & Technology is one of the largest corporate donations in South Africa to date.

‚”Our investment has gone further and deeper than the financial investment. We are partners to government and the people of Mvezo, and we will work with them to ensure the school works, and becomes a precedent for public-private-community partnerships in South Africa.

‚”Siemens South Africa looks forward to employing youngsters from the school that have gone on to university or technical college and become science, engineering and technology professionals and technicians.‚”

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