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The Mayor of Durban, Mama Zandile Gumede, has been shining the light of hope for residents of the city in KwaZulu-Natal, for the past three years.

Through her foundation, Light of Ubuntu, Gumede supports learners and university students who would otherwise be forced to give up their studies due to a lack of income. 

While KwaZulu-Natal is a province best-known as a place of fun — with its coasts, mountain resorts, and game reserves — inequality still plagues the coastland.

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But it was lack of funding for those who wanted to pursue their studies at home and overseas that inspired Gumede to launch the foundation. 

“The Light of Ubuntu funding supports some scholars and university students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” she said in a statement provided to Global Citizen.

“The foundation is currently funding students at Mangosuthu University of Technology, University of KwaZulu Natal, as well as the Durban University of Technology,” she continued. “With limited resources, we are also supporting students who are studying abroad in various fields.”

Gumede said her vision is to support all forms of education — particularly supporting young girls and youth in general, as well as rural communities.

“Having worked in many diverse communities as both a community worker and later a ward councilor, I have been privileged to understand the inequalities that apartheid brought to our communities, scars of directionless young people who are failing to access clear path to the economy due to lack of skills and broken families,” Gumede said.

She continued: “I have been encouraged by many leaders I have worked with, inspired me to note that in small spheres and own backyards, we can indeed make a difference."

According to Wiseman Mkhize, the foundation’s chairperson, “education remains her utmost priority for this foundation.”

Mkhize told Global Citizen that through Gumede’s interventions in community development, the foundation has adopted two schools in Inanda — Amaoti No.1 Primary and Amaoti No.3 Combined schools.

“We are aiming at creating exemplary schools which will hope and instill a culture of learning across the board, despite the background and poverty margins that engulf the area,” continued Mkhize. 

And these schools are slowly becoming models of what schooling and learning environments should be, irrespective of location or financial background, he said. 

“We also have matric interventions which include a camp for grade 12 learners,” he continued. “Arts and culture programmes are being implemented at this school so as to provide balanced developmental activities.”

And the Amaoti No.1 Primary School is particularly close to Gumede’s heart — as the place that she first started her education.

“It has always remained in her heart to contribute to and change this school,” Mkhize continued, adding that a new partnership will now see the school get a brand new roof, wall repairs, and, most importantly, new toilets to help keep children safe and healthy. 

Next on the agenda is installing Wi-Fi hotspots, to make it easier for children to research and learn. 

But, in the province more widely, there is still a lot that needs to be done to improve the education sector. 

“It is our believe that we all can do our share to contribute to building our societies, and education is the key towards us realising that goal,” said Mkhize.   

Other programmes run by foundation runs include the Injabulo Rehabilitation Centre, which is based in Kwa-Mashu, a township of northern Durban.

The centre was launched by “good Samaritan” Zodwa Memela, who was inspired by her own experiences of alcohol abuse. 

“She had the vision to help her community, which she loved, to fight the abuse of drugs,” added Mkhize, saying that Memela began the origins of the centre in her own backyard — by housing about eight boys and two girls who were struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. 

“The room she was using was very small, so when we heard about her plight we became interested in helping and working with her,” Mkhize said.

The foundation also runs a sanitary pad drive.

“The drive enables the young girls to attend school consistently, participate more in sport, and generally improve their sense of self-worth, contributing to breaking the cycle of poverty and ensuring a better life in the long term,” Mkhize said.

Although the foundation was established just three years ago, it has already achieved a lot for the people of KwaZulu-Natal, according to Mkhize, who said that a lot more could be done to better the lives of all South Africans.

The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.


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