SAA hands over Mandela Day libraries in Qunu and Mvezo
The installation of Mandela Day libraries continues to spread the Mandela Day message about people’s capacity, when working together, to bring about positive change.
The libraries promote a reading culture and address the call for equal access to resources for education.
The twelfth and thirteenth Mandela Day Libraries were opened at schools in the historically important areas of Mvezo and Qunu in the Eastern Cape district where Nelson Mandela was born.
The two refurbished container units were sponsored by South African Airways (SAA) which, in the last two years, has involved primary schools in the area in their Mandela Day activities.
The airline decided early last week to forgo a major launch event and instead use the resources to improve classrooms and other schools facilities at the schools. The launches were therefore low-key events – a simple handover to the school – and did not include district education officials or local government representatives.
Chief Zwelivelile Mandela, grandson of Mr Mandela, officiated at the formal handover of the libraries.
At Qunu Junior Secondary School, a small crowd of children in blue uniforms waited for the early morning start of the handover proceedings. On a concrete square between classrooms, boys played soccer with a ball fashioned from used plastic bags. There were few teachers at the school; the principal and a team of educators were away on an excursion to Cape Town.
Nevertheless, governing board members and the teacher responsible for the library were on hand to receive the library.
Also present at the event were Sello Hatang and Frank Meintjies of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, the Chairperson of the Breadline Africa International Board of trustees, Mrs Louise Seligman, as well as two UK trustees, Tony and Pippa Smyth, and Director of Breadline Africa Tim Smith. A representative from Samsung, Mr Ntutule Tshenye, was also present.
Chief Zwelivelile Mandela welcomed everyone to the school and spoke briefly to the children about the importance of the library and reading. He informed the gathering that this was the first school which Mr Mandela attended as a boy, and where he was given the name “Nelson” for the first time.
It was the beginning of his education and of his love for reading and study which was to open so many doors in his life.
Frank Meintjies then spoke about the project to place libraries at primary schools in each of the provinces, and then handed the keys to Tim Smith, who handed them to the Chief who then opened the library.
After viewing the library, which was already stocked with books and fitted out with two computers, the learners gathered to sing a prepared item. Thereafter, Mr Hatang handed over two soccer balls to the schools.
The balls are called One World Futbols (http://www.oneworldfutbol.com/) and are virtually indestructible, can be used in harsh surroundings and reinflate even if punctured. (Earlier this year San Franciscan Ms Beverly Alkire provided the balls – which were given in honour of her late father John – and asked that they be distributed to young learners).
The visitors to the school took the opportunity to see a few classrooms to examine the challenges faced by the school. The school appears to be in a poor state, with broken desks and several dilapidated classrooms; however, the governing board had refurbished the school hall roof which had been damaged in a cyclone recently.
The group then travelled to Mvezo where the second library was opened at the Nkwenkwezi Junior Secondary School.
At the entrance to the school, a small group of learners, some of them ready to start a traditional dance, formed a guard of honour and led the visitors into the school.
At this event, Mr Hatang called on learners and educators to make sure the library was looked after. He reminded learners that, through the use of books, they could travel to faraway places and enjoy interesting experiences simply by opening the pages of the book.
Mr Hatang also handed over two "One World" soccer balls to the school.
The school principal expressed thanks for the library – he described it as a resource that would be fully used and would be instrumental in improving the performance of learners. He noted that the library would add to ongoing community efforts, co-ordinated through the governing board and supported by Chief Mandela, to effect improvements at the school.
Chief Mandela, who has close ties with the school, cut the ribbon and officially opened the library's doors. Before that, he elaborated on education plans in the area which involved the school, and which would be implemented once the necessary government approvals had been finalised.
Nkwekwezi J. S. would first be temporarily relocated to a site nearby and thereafter – once the necessary building work had been undertaken – would merge with another primary school in the area. The current site would used for the construction of a learning centre focused on science and technology.
Of course, Nkwenkwezi J. S. will take the Container Library with it; the library will thus benefit more learners at the merged primary school.