Siemens builds cutting edge green school at Mandela home village

Submitted by: Tholakele Nene, Tuesday, July 23, 2013

<p>The state of the art school will have 25 classrooms, a football and netball field, a resource centre, school hall, cultivated areas and teacher’s accommodation (Image Source: Keshin Govender at Siemens).</p>

The state of the art school will have 25 classrooms, a football and netball field, a resource centre, school hall, cultivated areas and teacher’s accommodation (Image Source: Keshin Govender at Siemens).

In a small village on the banks of Mbhashe river, not far from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape lies the almost completed Mandela School of Science and Technology, which will soon be open to 700 learners from disadvantaged backgrounds in the Mvezo village.

The school developed by Siemens, aims to provide learners from disadvantaged backgrounds with an opportunity to acquire knowledge, develop skills, and have an equal opportunity to build a sustainable future for fellow citizens, says Keshin Govender, Sector Communications specialist at Siemens. 

The idea to build a school in rural Mvezo was inspired by a meeting between Siemens Global CEO and former South African President Nelson Mandela, during the CEO’s visit to South Africa to celebrate 150 years of Siemens operations in South Africa.  

“In 2010 when our global CEO was in South Africa to celebrate 150 years of Siemens, he wanted to meet Nelson Mandela and during the meeting he asked Nelson Mandela what Siemens can do for South Africans as part of our celebrations”, says Keshin Govender, Sector Communications specialist at Siemens. According to Govender, Mandela requested for a school to be built for the children of Mvezo. And so the toil to bring the former president’s lifelong dream to life began.

Building on sustainable principles

Wind turbines are part of Siemens aim to provide clean and sustainable lighting for the school (Image Source: Keshin Govender at Siemens).

The first stages of the project consisted of bringing in other stakeholders to partner on the project. Some of those include the Department of Public Works, Department of Education, Department of Science and Technology and the Mvezo community.

Due to the underdeveloped state of Mvezo, Siemens had to conduct a feasibility study before starting on the building plan.

The school is built using “Siemens sustainability principles”.  It features renewable energy technologies, wind and solar energy which Govender says will work alongside the national electricity grid to power energy efficient lightbulbs amongst other parts of the school.

According to Govender the usage of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies at the school means that the school’s dependence on the National Energy Grid will be minimal.

Apart from the sustainable energy interventions employed at the school, the school also employs sustainable water practices to provide clean drinking water for the learners and the community.  A range of technologies including automated water systems, rainwater capture and water filtration systems have been implemented to reduce the water footprint of the school.

Supporting local businesses and skills development

The project uses locally-sourced material, to support local businesses and to ensure that spare and extra materials are easily available in future.

As part of Siemens capacity-building programme the community has been extensively involved in the building stages of the school. Community members were employed to assist in bringing the plan of the school to life, using their short skills such as brick layering, plastering, carpentry and plumbing.

In addition, the community and students will be trained to maintain the various technologies installed in the school, says Govender.

State-of-the-art facilities and equipment

The Mandela School of Science and Technology is being constructed in rural village of Mvezo (Image Source: Keshin Govender at Siemens)

To realise this, the school will, unlike other schools in the area, have state-of-the-art facilities and equipment. This includes: three blocks of two-storey classrooms, 25 classrooms, a state-of-the-art resource centre with two computer labs, an engineering design lab and a library, netball and soccer fields. Furthermore, there will be an administration office and school hall which will be used for award ceremonies, concerts and assemblies.

In addition to these features will be separate teachers’ accommodation rooms that will accommodate 12 teachers on the school premises.

Science and Technology to take priority

The school will operate like all other schools following the national curriculum. However, because the school is specifically targeted at encouraging science and technology and aims to produce future engineers with the required skills, from the 10th grade the students will have four specialised subjects of focus: engineering, technology, science and agriculture, says Govender.

There are plans for the first set of graduates to be employed by Siemens, he adds.

The R100 million Mandela School of Science and Technology has taken over two years to develop and is due for completion in October 2013.

The Nelson Mandela School of Science and Technology will be operational for the 2014 school year.

Meanwhile, about 500kms from the school, Siemens is providing wind turbines at the 138MW Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm as part of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).  

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Tholakele Nene