By MICHELLE SOLOMON and MSINDISI FENGU
THE dilapidated school block where struggle heroes Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe once learnt has been restored to its former glory.
The renovated Eagle Block of the Healdtown Comprehensive School in Fort Beaufort, established in 1855, was handed over to education MEC Mandla Makupula yesterday.
It was part of a multi-million rand historic schools restoration project headed by Anglican Church Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane.
Ndungane, together with Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) Presiding Bishop Ziphozihle Siwa and MCSA Women’s Manyano general president Nobuntu Madwe were present to hand over the new block.The block comprises five renovated classrooms and is named after the golden painted eagle statue on top of the school’s bell dome.
More than R800000 was spent restoring the old block, R500000 of which was raised by Women’s Manyano, and the remaining R300000 from the historic school restoration project.
Madwe praised the generosity of the Women’s Manyano members.
Ndungane told the Daily Dispatch the handover of Eagle Block was a significant move towards restoring Healdtown, but the work was not yet complete.
“We need a lot of resources because since 1976 nothing was done. We need boarding facilities, houses for staff, dining halls and kitchens.
“This school used to attract pupils from across southern Africa.”
Residents from around the Fort Beaufort area attended the ceremony, and said they were delighted with the work done.
A former Healdtown pupil Tunyiswa Vakalisa, who attended the school from 1952 to 1956, said: “It’s absolutely wonderful that the school is being restored”.
Former Healdtown resident Mzigaye Dunjwa said the history of the school would make children happy to learn there.
However, he said the provincial government had to play a bigger role in restoring the school.
Last year, when Ndungane visited Healdtown, he was at pains to describe the lack of financial support from fellow South Africans towards the restoration of Mandela’s alma mater.
In addition to Mandela, the school produced alumni Pan-Africanist Congress founder, Sobukwe, Rivonia trialists Govan Mbeki and Raymond Mhlaba, and the first black president of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Reverend Seth Mokitimi.
Originally published in the Daily Dispatch.