Address by President Nelson Mandela at the re-opening of Bongolethu Primary School, Phillipi - Cape Town

9 May 1996

Mr Halbert Mlindazwe and staff of Bongolethu Primary;
Mr Syd Muller and Woolworths staff;
Pupils of Bongolethu Primary;
People of Phillipi;
Ladies and gentlemen,

Earlier this morning I attended a function similar to this one at Beacon Hill High School in Mitchells Plain. It is encouraging to see our nation taking steps to improve the welfare of our children and encourage the culture of learning. One of the worst things that apartheid did was to deny the majority of South Africans the right to decent education. Even the inadequate education they gave to the majority was provided under unbearable conditions to both teachers and pupils.

The Government has placed education and the revival of the culture of learning at the top of its agenda. Without properly trained people, our goal of a better life for all will remain a dream. To get our children back to school means improving their learning conditions, motivating their teachers, and involving parents in the education system.

This is why we introduced the Primary School Feeding Scheme and the idea of Parents-Teacher-Students Associations and what has happened to this school is part of that project.

What is most encouraging about this project is the manner in which you all combined efforts for its success. School authorities negotiated for the land donation from Murray and Roberts, and Woolworths provided financial assistance to get the project going. The entire community rallied behind the project. We are here today to reap the fruits of your joint efforts.

It is heartening to see the role played by the management and workers of Woolworths in this endeavour. Looking at the tender age of these children, your contribution is a true investment. I hope that what you did here will spur other companies to join communities in similar joint ventures.

Now our young ones will attend school under better conditions than we are accustomed to. This is a school of the new South Africa - a school for the rainbow children. Bongolethu is setting the standard for the future.

Mr Halbert Mlindazwe and staff, the selection of your school for this project showed the confidence that we all have in you. As pioneers your performance will determine the attitude of private business towards such projects in future. We expect you to send the right signal. The results you produce must be the envy of other schools.

For Mr Mlindazwe and his staff to accomplish the mission we are assigning them today, they will rely on the support of the school controlling body and parents. To nurture the culture of learning, parents also have a role. If they follow with interest the progress made by their children and interact with teachers regularly and attend parents' meetings, they will encourage their children. Just as we joined forces to renovate this school, so must we work together to educate our children.

Finally, let me congratulate the pupils of Bongolethu for their new-look school. This is the community's gift to you. Look after your school. Don't allow delinquents to play mischievous games like the stealing of school property. Report such behaviour to your teachers. Work harder to achieve better results. The future of our nation is in your hands. Good luck!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation