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CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­press.co.za

A Har­vard stu­dent from Um­lazi town­ship in KwaZulu-Na­tal has set up an ini­tia­tive to give back to so­ci­ety by col­lect­ing and sup­ply­ing text­books to needy pub­lic schools across the coun­try.

Mfundo Radebe, who turned 20 this month, has part­nered with pri­vate donors and other young peo­ple from af­flu­ent back­grounds in the coun­try in a quest to erad­i­cate short­ages of text­books.

Radebe was for­tu­nate to get a spon­sor­ship to study at Craw­ford Col­lege in La Lu­cia in Dur­ban and after pass­ing his ma­tric with eight dis­tinc­tions in 2015, he was then awarded another schol­ar­ship last year to study po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and psy­chol­ogy at Har­vard Univer­sity in Cam­bridge, Mas­sachusetts, in the US.

His web­site pro­mot­ing his Dlulisa Ini­tia­tive is al­ready up and run­ning. The ini­tia­tive has been en­dorsed by No­bel prize lau­re­ate Wole Soyinka, and the Na­tional Youth Devel­op­ment Agency has de­scribed it as a con­tri­bu­tion to so­cial co­he­sion.

Speak­ing to City Press from the US this week, Radebe said this was his way of giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity. He said that, when he vis­ited home after his first se­mes­ter at Har­vard, he found his ma­tric text­books, study guides and sta­tionery neatly packed in his cup­board and his friends told him theirs were also in their homes. He then en­cour­aged them to dis­trib­ute the books to less priv­i­leged schools.

“It feels like a deep per­sonal com­mit­ment that I think we should all un­der­take,” he said. Radebe said that, as a young man from Um­lazi, he was for­tu­nate to have had ac­cess to a school that had re­sources. He wrote scores of let­ters while he was a pupil in a Dur­ban North pub­lic school ask­ing for a spon­sor­ship from the board of ADvTech schools, which Craw­ford falls un­der. He even­tu­ally got him­self a Craw­ford Col­lege bur­sary.

His mother, Nobuhle Zwane, is a nurse at Prince Mshiyeni Memo­rial Hos­pi­tal and his step­fa­ther, Lucky Zwane, is a teacher at Dloko Se­nior Sec­ondary in Um­lazi. He has two sis­ters and a brother.

He told City Press that his ini­tia­tive would first be pi­loted in Jo­han­nes­burg and Cape Town to test its ef­fi­ciency, and then rolled out to other schools. He is hop­ing to col­lect more than 25 000 books and text­books a year in part­ner­ship with in­ter­ested schools.

He said each school would run two collection cam­paigns a year for two weeks.

“I pri­mar­ily be­lieve that in the pri­mary and sec­ondary phase, no child should be left be­hind.

“We need a sys­tem­atic and rad­i­cal change in the way we view ed­u­ca­tion. A child with a text­book should be the most im­por­tant goal that this na­tion strives for. It must come be­fore po­lit­i­cal gain,” Radebe said.

Asked about re­cent calls by univer­sity stu­dents for free higher ed­u­ca­tion, Radebe said the im­por­tant mes­sage be­hind the need for free higher ed­u­ca­tion was that if South Africa failed to ed­u­cate its poor stu­dents, this would later af­fect the coun­try in a neg­a­tive way.

“South Africa still has a long way be­fore it can be­come an equal so­ci­ety. I am an ad­vo­cate for over­haul­ing the pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion phases first, and en­sur­ing that each South African child is given the re­sources they need at this most piv­otal stage. I think that is where my voice is needed most right now,” he said.

Study­ing po­lit­i­cal sci­ence and psy­chol­ogy has been his goal, and he be­lieves the qual­i­fi­ca­tion will equip him to un­der­stand how so­cial thought af­fects pub­lic pol­icy.

“This is im­por­tant to me as some­body who has so much hope for South Africa and her peo­ple,” he said.

For de­tails on how to con­trib­ute books, visit dluli­saini­tia­tive.org/

GIV­ING BACK

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