Goats, hugs and Mandela at school opening

Leaders and supporters of rival political parties put aside their differences on Friday for the opening of a refurbished rural high school in the village of KwaNxamalala in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Thousands of children, their parents and villagers walked long distances to the Mnyakanya secondary school opening—presided over by former president Nelson Mandela and Deputy President Jacob Zuma—both African National Congress members—and Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

The message of the speakers was one of peace and tolerance, with several hugs exchanged on the podium in the marquee erected for the ceremony.

Political differences and race should not be allowed to stand in the way of efforts to improve education, Mandela said.

Addressing the predominantly Zulu crowd in Xhosa, he again urged the private sector to become more involved in the drive to extend education to all who need it. These efforts should not be limited only to black children, the former president added.

The school was refurbished by the Gold Fields mining company to the tune of R6-million at the request of Mandela and Zuma.

Motorcades and helicopters arrived in the normally tranquil village of KwaNxamalala in the rolling green hills of KwaZulu-Natal. Some goats, donkeys and cattle were also seen making their way to the gathering.

Thousands of people braved the rain to listen to two hours of speeches.
This was to be followed in the afternoon by entertainment. Five cows were slaughtered to feed the guests.

A group of villagers sporting traditional weapons and dress danced around the grounds chanting a slogan meaning: “Zulu, put the gun down.” The group initially refused to be searched by police at the entrance, but later capitulated. They were allowed to take their spears and shields with them, and joined the rest of the crowd without incident.

Buthelezi told the gathering that education remains the key tool for South Africa’s true liberation.

“There cannot be any genuine liberation for as long as our people are enslaved under the yoke of ignorance and superstition because of their lack of education, knowledge and exposure.”

There are people, he said, who think the struggle is over merely because they themselves have arrived in positions of power and comfort. In reality, the achievement of political freedom is only the start of the real struggle for social and economic emancipation.

Buthelezi said South Africans feel issues such as Aids, unemployment, crime, poverty and corruption have been neglected.

He said the presence of so many high-ranking political leaders at Friday’s event was a sign of joint commitment to upliftment through education.

Other dignitaries present included Public Works Minister Stella Sigcau, Minerals and Energy Minister Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Department of Education Director General Thami Mseleku.

The Gold Fields donation led to the construction of a new laboratory, library and administration block for the Mnyakanya school, and the doubling of its classrooms from 12 to 24.

The new administration block includes a staff room, kitchenette, sick room and store.

Mnyakanya is the only high school in the area offering mathematics, physical science and commercial subjects. It boasts a 90% matric pass rate, despite its past constraints. Of its initial 12 classrooms one was used as an office and another as a staff room.

The MTN Foundation has provided the school with a fully equipped media centre. The Telkom Foundation donated science laboratory equipment and paid for the training of teachers.

Zuma said the refurbishment project had resulted in job opportunities for about 100 local people.

“This response from the private sector indicates, once again, the strength of public-private partnerships in our country, and the manner in which this enables us to work together to improve the quality of life for all.”—Sapa

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