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Mandela tech dream comes true

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Last month, the Mandela School of Science & Technology in Mvezo opened its doors to 420 learners in Grades 8, 9 and 10 from the rural Eastern Cape village and surrounding areas.

The school, built as a tribute to former South African president Nelson Mandela, is the first high school in the Mvezo area.

It was developed at a cost R100m, which includes operational and financial support for the first three years of operations, by global engineering firm Siemens following a commitment made to Madiba in 2010.

Until now, young people in Mvezo have had to leave home or travel long distances to go to high school – much as the young Nelson Mandela did in his teens.

‚”Now youngsters here can have a high school education and remain in a nurturing environment with their families and the community,‚” said Nkso Zwelivelile Mandela, Traditional Leader of the Mvezo and Head of the Royal House of Mandela. ‚”But they will have to work hard because standards at Mandela School of Science & Technology are high. And the learners know this.‚”

A three-tiered partnership between Siemens, the Mvezo Development Trust and the Department of Basic Education has made the school possible.

Mandela said that excellence had underpinned the project from the outset. ‚”Once building began in October 2012 every partner fulfilled their responsibilities on time and remained accountable. This is why just over one year since construction began the Mandela School of Science & Technology was ready to start teaching this month.‚”

Siemens South Africa CEO Siegmar Proebstl said he is aware that huge challenges remain in the Eastern Cape with regards to education. ‚”This is beginning to change, but business must be more aggressive in addressing the skills dearth in science and engineering. The Mandela School of Science & Technology shows what can be achieved when business, government and communities work together in an organised way.

‚”This school’s completion in just over one year is a record achievement, and the role of the Mvezo community in this accomplishment was central. Some 160 community members worked tirelessly to ensure the school would be ready for classes in 2014. Many of these people are parents who have built the school for their children and grandchildren.‚”

Speaking ahead of the official opening, Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said her department had successfully fulfilled its mandate to recruit teachers, engage with feeder schools in the area, select and register learners, equip the school and deliver furniture and text books.

‚”Next year, Grade 11 classes will begin and in 2016, Grade 12 will be introduced when the school will be at its maximum capacity of 700 learners,‚” said Motshekga.

Teaching at the Mandela School of Science & Technology will deliver the national curriculum. Learners in Grade 9 will be able to choose one of four focus areas for their final three years of schooling – science, technology, engineering or agriculture.

‚”The first test of the success of the Mandela School of Science & Technology will be at the end of 2016 when the first cohort of Grade 12s write their matric examinations,‚” said Motshekga.

The school motto ‚”education is freedom‚” was developed by the people of Mvezo, who were inspired by Nelson Mandela’s belief that ‚”education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world‚”.

Many of the community members employed on the project are now skilled labourers. Building materials were sourced locally to support local enterprises and to ensure materials will be available in future. Small businesses are being set up to provide supplies and services to the school.

Motshekga said the new high school had already had a positive effect on primary schools in the area. Road shows were held at 22 schools in 2013 to provide accurate information to learners, parents and teachers about the Mandela School of Science & Technology.

‚”Learners in our feeder schools here want to achieve the minimum entry requirements for the new high school,‚” said Motshekga.

Meanwhile, the two primary schools in Mvezo have been merged into one institution, and resources consolidated to deliver a better primary school offering.

Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDoE) MEC Mandla Makupula said that the new high school in Mvezo represented another step forward in strengthening the high school offering in the region, and welcomed the involvement of business in facilitating this trend. ‚”The new Mandela School of Science & Technology benefits the local community in the short-term, but will also have a positive impact in the Eastern Cape over the longer-term.‚”

Proebstl said that in 2020 the first matriculants of the Mandela School of Science & Technology will graduate from university. ‚”I believe they will be skilled engineering professionals and technicians that Siemens and other private and public companies will want to employ.‚”

‚”Furthermore, teachers and learners will benefit from partnerships with international schools and science education networks such as the Neslon Mandela School in Berlin, the International School Munich and Erlangen, and Siemens Professional Education Germany (SPE).‚”

The new school has modern facilities, equipment and laboratories, a state-of-the-art resource centre and excellent sporting facilities.

Siemens will remain involved with the school, providing support for operational and maintenance costs for a period of three years.

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