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/