FORMER South African president Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to fighting for freedom, and was committed to using education as a tool to empower and uplift people. Madiba’s legacy continues to inspire others around the world, across South Africa, as well as in and around his home village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape.
Accordingly, it’s fitting that, on Mandela Day on 18 July – and as part of the wider Mandela Month celebrations – his grand daughter Ndileka Mandela and her Thembekile Mandela Foundation partnered with Ford South Africa by donating school shoes and bags to 1 150 learners at the Clarkebury Agricultural School.
The initiative honours and continues Madiba’s legacy by supporting underprivileged communities, and providing opportunities for more children to attend school. Located approximately 32km from Qunu in the small rural Eastern Cape town of Clarkebury, Nelson Mandela was enrolled at Clarkebury Agricultural School in 1934, aged 16, before moving to Healdtown College in Fort Beaufort in 1937.
“Nelson Mandela played such an important role in shaping the democratic South Africa that we know today, and we are honoured and privileged to be supporting an initiative that was very close to his heart and proudly continues his legacy,” says Esther Buthelezi, Transformation and Government Affairs Executive Director of Ford Motor Company. “This is especially appropriate following Mandela Day on 18 July which is celebrated around the world, and forms part of the wide range of Mandela Month initiatives conducted around the country during July to help others.
“Madiba emphasised the crucial role that education plays in empowering our youth and creating opportunities for upliftment, economic growth and prosperity,” Buthelezi says. “However, many children, particularly in the rural areas, lack the bare essentials such as school shoes, or a bag in which to carry their books. If we’re going to break the cycle of poverty and turn the tide on the high levels of unemployment in South Africa, we need to join forces and do everything in our power to ensure that every learner receives a quality education, and leaves school with the skills to become an economically active and contributing member of society.
“We applaud the Thembekile Mandela Foundation for embodying and continuing Madiba’s selfless commitment to helping others, and focusing on education as the key to building a brighter future for the people of South Africa,” Buthelezi says. “This project exemplifies our Ford+ values of caring for each other, and developing great talent that will take us into the future.”
The total funding for the project, including the school shoes and bags, is approximately R500 000. The school shoes donated to the learners are locally designed and manufactured by Veldskoen, extending Ford’s association with this innovative, proudly South African company. Last year, Ford funded the production of 4 300 pairs of hard-wearing Veldskoen school shoes which were donated to underprivileged learners in Pretoria and Gqeberha. Veldskoen specially developed a durable black school shoe based on its popular Heritage Shoe range.
For this project, the unique shoe proudly carries the Ford and Veldskoen logos on the in-soles, the Thembekile Mandela Foundation embossed on the side of each shoe, as well as the South African flag stitched on the outside.
“We are proud to once again collaborate with Ford South Africa on another great initiative, this time with the Thembekile Mandela Foundation for a cause that is so fundamentally important for the next generation, and especially in an underprivileged area inextricably linked with Nelson Mandela,” says Nick Dreyer, CEO of Veldskoen Shoes. “It is truly heartwarming to see the difference something as simple as a decent pair of school shoes makes to these learners’ lives, and their futures.”
Ndileka Mandela established the Thembekile Mandela Foundation in 2014. Along with its educational projects, the non-profit organisation supplies women and young girls with sanitary goods, and supports agricultural education and training for the broader community. “We are extremely grateful to Ford South Africa for funding this back-to-school campaign, assisting our foundation to improve the lives of 1 150 learners from the local community so that they are equipped to be in school and make the most of the learning opportunities provided,” Mandela says.
“Creating a better living and learning environment will produce a better society,” Mandela adds. “These learners can now go to school with comfortable shoes on their feet and sturdy bags on their backs, along with happy hearts and the determination to do well.”