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CityPress - - News - LUBABALO NGCUKANA lubabalo.ngcukana@city­press.co.za

ku­l­uleko Zulu spent Man­dela Day clean­ing at St Pa­trick’s Hos­pi­tal in his home town of Bizana in the Eastern Cape.

Zulu has re­turned home from Cuba, where he is study­ing medicine. He can­not wait to give back to the com­mu­nity as a way of thank­ing Nel­son Man­dela for en­sur­ing that he com­pleted his school­ing in a proper class­room and not a mud struc­ture.

Four­teen years ago, Madiba used his charm and good­will to lure cell­phone giants Nokia and MTN to spend R3.5 mil­lion on nine class­rooms and an ad­min­is­tra­tion block at the Nongeke Se­nior Sec­ondary School in the area.

Madiba of­fi­cially opened the ren­o­vated school on Oc­to­ber 9 2001. It was a proud mo­ment for the com­mu­nity and the school’s pupils and staff, in­clud­ing Zulu.

Zulu (25) stud­ied at Nongeke be­tween 2007 and 2009. He hopes to re­turn to Bizana once he has grad­u­ated and work there as a doc­tor as a way of giv­ing back.

“I have al­ways wanted to do medicine. This be­came clear to me when I ac­com­pa­nied my grand­mother to hos­pi­tal and saw the long queues in the public hos­pi­tals, where hun­dreds of pa­tients were be­ing treated by one doc­tor. I re­alised there was a short­age of doc­tors,” he said.

There are 152 such “Man­dela schools” around the coun­try, with 60 of them in the Eastern Cape.

The for­mer pres­i­dent was fa­mous for coax­ing cor­po­rates and in­di­vid­u­als with deep pock­ets to build new schools or ren­o­vate di­lap­i­dated ones. One of those in­di­vid­u­als was talk show queen Oprah Win­frey who, af­ter a dis­cus­sion with Man­dela, de­cided to open an academy for girls in Joburg.

But Nongeke needs fur­ther im­prove­ments be­cause some of its classes are still held in dated struc­tures.

School prin­ci­pal Velile Tik­isa this week said although the com­mu­nity was grate­ful to the late for­mer pres­i­dent for his ef­forts to im­prove the ru­ral school, a lot still needed to be done.

“The con­struc­tion of the struc­ture, which was fa­cil­i­tated by Madiba, was only a first phase,” ex­plained Tik­isa.

“A sec­ond phase, which in­cludes a science lab­o­ra­tory, li­brary, com­puter lab and ad­di­tional class­rooms, is not there 14 years af­ter the first phase was com­pleted.”

Tik­isa said “some­body” should have stepped up to fin­ish “Tata’s vi­sion for the school”.

The school – painted in bright yel­low and on top of a hill in Re­doubt Vil­lage at the Imiz­izi ad­min­is­tra­tive area – re­mains a prom­i­nent land­mark in the vil­lage. It is lo­cated about 15km from Bizana.

In­side the class­rooms, bro­ken desks and chairs are crammed to­gether. The roof is un­sta­ble and of­ten blown away when there are strong winds.

There is no run­ning wa­ter at the school, thus the toi­lets do not flush.

Nongeke Se­nior Sec­ondary School doesn’t even have a land­line phone or a fax ma­chine. The en­tire school of more than 1 000 pupils re­lies on one lap­top.

“It’s so un­for­tu­nate that Tata is no longer with us. Maybe he would have made a plan to get phase two done,” said Tik­isa.

“We thought that some­one, even the depart­ment of ed­u­ca­tion, would have taken the ba­ton from Madiba and fin­ished the sec­ond phase, but we are still wait­ing.”

He said for the school to func­tion prop­erly it needed at least 600 desks and 1 200 chairs.

“We have asked the depart­ment for help in the past five years but were told there was a back­log, so we are still wait­ing,” he said.

Tik­isa added that the school had not re­ceived 80% of the pupil­teacher sup­port ma­te­rial for this year, even though it had placed an or­der for the books in Oc­to­ber last year.

But it is not all doom and gloom. De­spite its chal­lenges, the schoolyard is well main­tained and boasts pine trees that sur­round the perime­ter of the fence.

Even more im­pres­sive have been the achieve­ments of its pupils, some of whom have been counted among the best in the province.

Last year, the school achieved a 73% ma­tric pass rate, up from 66% in 2013 and 70% in 2012.

Oyama Cele (17) is a Grade 12 pupil and deputy pres­i­dent of the learn­ers’ rep­re­sen­ta­tive coun­cil. She wants to be a phar­ma­cist so she can come up with new in­no­va­tions to help peo­ple.

“I am very proud to have been part of this school, not only be­cause of the as­so­ci­a­tion with the Man­dela name, but be­cause it is a place where you can get de­cent re­sults and a good ed­u­ca­tion. For a ru­ral school, it is do­ing very well. We just wish gov­ern­ment can help us with desks, chairs and books,” she said.

Cele and Zulu spent yesterday clean­ing at St Pa­trick’s Hos­pi­tal.

PHOTOS; LEON SADIKI

NEW LOOK

Nel­son Man­dela con­vinced two cell­phone giants to re­build the Nongeke Se­nior Sec­ondary School in Bizana, Eastern Cape

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