Siemens commits to building the first high school in Mvezo in the Eastern Cape
A soil turning event on 17 June 2011 signalled the exciting realisation of a special pledge made a year ago by our global CEO and President, Peter Löscher. During a visit to South Africa, Peter Löscher met with the country’s former President, Nelson Mandela, and extended Siemens’ commitment to assist with the building of a high school in Mvezo in the Eastern Cape.
Over the past year, Siemens’ support has evolved into becoming the primary partner for constructing the Mandela School of Science and Technology – the first high school in the area. All costs associated with the school’s construction will be fully covered by Siemens and we will also contribute to the initial operating costs of the school. Once the school is completed and fully operational, it will be turned over to the Department of Education and to the Mvezo village. Over and above, Siemens will provide state-of-the-art technology, such as water purification systems, environmental innovations and renewable energy technologies, to ensure the school is self sufficient, sustainable and able to thrive even in a challenging environment. Through the use of green technologies to build and maintain the school, Siemens also aims to make a positive environmental impact on the Mvezo area. Carbon offsetting programmes are being investigated to make the school a carbon neutral initiative through, for example, the planting of indigenous trees. This will additionally help with the re-forestation of the Eastern Cape.
Says Sigi Proebstl, CEO Siemens Southern Africa and Cluster Africa, “Siemens’ philosophy has always included more than just business – we work hard to help the communities and countries where we are to grow and prosper. We want to give something back, and for us, this means helping when help is needed. Giving something back also means helping to develop local talent and supporting local initiatives. The Mandela School of Science and Technology is a great example of this, and we hope to establish this school as a lighthouse project with international recognition”.
The project commences
To mark the commencement of the school’s two-year construction phase, a live television broadcast, press conference and a soil turning ceremony was hosted by Siemens in conjunction with the Mvezo Traditional Council and the Mvezo community members. Special guests at the morning’s proceedings included, amongst others, Nkosi (Chief) Zwelivelile Mandela, Head of the Mvezo Traditional Council, Angelina Motshekga, South African Minister of Basic Education, Derek Hannekom, South African Deputy Minister of Science and Technology as well as Sigi Proebstl.
Sigi explains that the school will offer training in science and technology and will prepare students to study further in fields such as engineering – crucial skills that are in great demand in South Africa and throughout the world. As many as 700 young people from the Mvezo village and the surrounding area will be educated at the school. “Engineering is one of the scarce skills in South Africa and it’s a skill that should be cultivated in children from an early age. It will help to create the right spirit and enthusiasm around future technologies”, he says. “Projects like these, are an example of how Siemens supports initiatives that have a real impact on the lives of people and communities. This new school will help to revitalize the Mvezo community, and looking further down the road, it will help to develop valuable skills that can be applied here in the region, and far beyond.”
At the soil turning ceremony, Angelina Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education commented, “What makes this occasion even more special is that yesterday we celebrated Youth Day – a day commemorating the children who stood up against oppression and fought for fairness and equality in the education system. 35 years later, we honour those with a project that will provide children born in a free and democratic South Africa with a better and improved education”.
“As Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. Increasing the appreciation of science and technology amongst children and focusing on the development of this particular area in our education system, is perhaps one of the most meaningful ways we can prepare the youth of today to change the world of tomorrow”, says the Minister. “In South Africa and in other countries, there is a shortage of engineers, scientists and technology experts. They are the men and women that design and build the factories, power plants, trains, roads, hospitals and even schools that make our cities work; and drive a country’s sustainable growth”.
The Minister further added that while the South African Government has comprehensively outlined their approach and commitment to education in the country in the ‘Action Plan to 2014: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2025’, the development of engineers and technologists of the future cannot be done by Government alone. “It is for this reason that education is a societal issue. So we welcome the contribution of Siemens, a valued local partner making a difference to society, with open arms. Siemens’ proudly South African school project, here in Mvezo, will go a long way in enriching and deepening the appreciation and understanding of science and technology among young learners”.
In conclusion, Sigi emphasises that Siemens is enormously proud to be the primary partner in the Mvezo school project. “We are even prouder though of the impact the Mandela School of Science and Technology will have on the community, on the future of South Africa, and even perhaps Africa”.