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Ensuring education in rural South Africa: Meet Rendani Mamphiswana

This is the second in a series of profiles on alumni of the Emerging African Leaders Programme which is held annually at the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice at UCT. Since 2015, 74 leaders from 10 African countries have gathered to reflect and expand their personal resources, leadership and network of support. By profiling some of them, we seek to grow this network of African ideas and inspiration.

Meet Rendani Mamphiswana.

Rendani is the founding President of the Takalani Foundation. Based in Venda, Limpopo, and focusing on learners from townships and rural areas, the foundation helps learners to transition into higher education and runs mentorship programmes, reading campaigns and career and community engagements.

Last year the foundation hosted two career day events in Limpopo. 1500 high school learners attended and delivered more than 2000 books to learners across Limpopo and South Africa. They have just held their latest successful career day and are currently aiming to raise R180 000 to build a library.

Rendani is a Project Manager for Sasol. His professional experience includes technology management and process engineering totalling over eight years, locally and internationally. He is in his final year of his Masters in Engineering at the University of Pretoria and holds a Bachelors of Engineering and a Bachelors of Science in Chemical Engineering. He is an external examiner for a 3rd year course at the School of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, University of Witwatersrand. He was a member of the Business Advisory Board for Enactus VUT 2015-2016.

What inspired you to start the Takalani Foundation?

It was the reality of rural learners, the majority of whom continue to be unsuccessful in accessing higher education. After my undergraduate qualification in 2009, I felt I could use my experience to help rural learners access higher education. However, it took around six years to eventually set up Takalani Foundation.

Have you always had a passion for education? Where did it start?

Yes. It started from a young age. My mother kept on reminding me that education is my best option out of the village. In primary school, I was fuelled further by my favourite teacher, she joined the school while I was doing grade four – Mrs Khathutshelo Netshiavha. She believed in me and pushed me to be the best learner. I finished grade 7 at the top of the class. During secondary school, the late Vhudilangi Patrick Netshifhire echoed my mother’s words. He took me by the hand as his mentee. He believed in me so much and that education is our best weapon out of poverty.

How do you maintain you energy for your professional and NPO work?

It is really prioritization. Between 07:30 – 16:30, it is work and I do my very best. After work and the early hours of the morning are for advancing the Takalani Foundation to the next level. I love what I am doing at the foundation, it consumes every bit of me. There is also the transferability of skills - the professional skills I learn in the office are borrowed for the Takalani Foundation; and the leadership and overall people skills I gained at the Takalani Foundation are borrowed for my office life. I am still the same person, executing different tasks during different times of the day. To replenish my energy I spend time with family, my wife Busisiwe and daughter Rotondwa; I read books on spiritual development, leadership, organization development, innovation, being entrepreneurial, history. I run about 50 km a week, it is very good for me to formulate the world I desire. And I started blogging last year, I try to write a piece a week. It is very refreshing.

What is the hardest aspect of the work your foundation does?

Keeping the team motivated at all times. The entire core team consist of professionals and students; we need new ideas to keep them inspired for this work that they are not compensated for.

What is the most inspiring aspect?

To see the learners and students appreciating the work; their seeing value in what we are doing inspires me to get up each day and do more.

What motivates you to keep going?

To know deep in my heart that education is at the centre of liberating black people in South Africa. I know what education did for my life, I am confident it can do the same for many young South Africans. The leaders we desperately need will come out of this educated bunch that we are working on.

Who are your African role models?

The late OR Tambo, for his leadership skills, particularly the ability to be aware of each moment and respond with the correct manoeuvre to advance the struggle of black people in South Africa. And Patrick G. Awuah for his work in establishing Ashesi University. We need more African institutions that place high emphasis on our experiences rather than that of 1st world countries.

Do you have a message for African youth you’d like to share?

Let us take ownership of the current challenges and dedicate every second of our lives to complete resolution; it is the only way to honour those who fought for political liberation in Africa. We cannot afford to pass on the baton to the next person.

Check out Rendani’s work with the Takalani Foundation – become a volunteer or donate your second hand books:

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