16 February 2011, Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape – PetroSA, South Africa’s national oil company, has responded to calls for the restoration of the historic Healdtown Comprehensive High School, which has been an incubator of African intellectual excellence since 1855, with a R2, 125 million donation to renovate Nelson Mandela’s alma mater.
The school has in its lifetime produced several prominent leaders, including Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically-elected President, John Tengo Jabavu, a leading intellectual who became editor of Imvo Zabantsundu, the first African language newspaper in 1884. Other prominent alumni of the school include Robert Sobukwe, the founder of the Pan-Africanist Congress; the Rivonia trialists, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba and the Rev. Seth Mokitimi, the first black president of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.
The PetroSA donation will ensure the school is equipped with a state-of-the-art computer and science laboratory, and ablution facilities. Over the years the school has fallen into a state of disrepair and neglect, resulting in damaged buildings and infrastructure. PetroSA is the first South African company to contribute to the restoration of the 155 year old school.
Godwin Sweto, PetroSA’s Acting President & CEO, said the donation was necessitated by a need to preserve Healdtown and its legacy.
“Healdtown has in its 155 years nurtured great minds who have gone on to make telling contributions in the areas they have specialised in. We therefore could not sit back and watch, while this historic institution was literally wasting away,” he said.
“We are confident that this investment will make a huge difference to the school. The challenge is ensuring that more is done for this great institution,” Mr Sweto added.
Former President Mandela joined Healdtown in 1937, for the last two years of his high school education. In its heyday the school boasted over 1 000 pupils from all over Southern Africa. It currently has a total pupil compliment of 120 learners.
Healdtown initially started as a school to train evangelists, but it also provided basic education for the children of the AmaMfengu clan. Over time it also developed into an industrial school to train people as carpenters, blacksmiths, and cobblers and other similar trades. It also provided specialised training in domestic science and physical education.
The school has recently been adopted by the Historic Schools Restoration Project (HSRP), which aims to restore historically significant secondary institutions of learning to their former status. Headed by former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, the project has chosen Healdtown as one of its beneficiaries.
Archbishop Ndungane has welcomed the donation by PetroSA.
“I am delighted that this partnership between the Historic Schools Restoration Project, PetroSA, and the Eastern Cape Provincial Government has been established. It is my hope that the development of the project at Healdtown will inspire more national and international companies to engage fully in efforts to restore the rich heritage of the historical schools and transform them into sustainable and aspirational African institutions of educational and cultural excellence,” he said.
“I encourage the alumni of the historically significant schools to develop a sense of philanthropy. Your alma maters instilled values and principles and you developed a sense of pride with your hard work and academic achievement. This example of leadership, also inspired by traditional African values, should be used for the transformation of the coming generations in South Africa. In 1897 Anton Chekhov said: “Man has been endowed with reason, with the power to create, so that he can add to what he’s been given”. You have received gratefully, now I urge you to give graciously. Grace and gratitude are the energizing factors of giving and receiving,” Archbishop Ndungane added.
PetroSA operates a dynamic Corporate Social Investment programme that focuses on funding upliftment initiatives in the areas of health, education, environmental and community development. Over the past eight years the CSI programme has invested R220 million in such initiatives throughout the country.
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