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Media Release

20 April, 2007

PetroSA donates R15m to build new school in Vredenburg

PetroSA, South Africa's national oil company, donated R15-million today (Friday, 20 April 2007) towards building a new primary school in Vredenburg.

Sipho Mkhize, Chief Executive Officer of PetroSA, handed a cheque for this amount to Ron Swartz, Head of Education in the Western Cape, during a ceremony at PetroSA's head office in Parow.

"As PetroSA, we firmly believe in the development of our youth and skills for our country. Investment in children can only lead to the development and upliftment of the country as a whole," Mr Mkhize said.

The new primary school will contribute significantly towards easing pressure on primary schooling in Vredenburg, following strong population growth in the Saldanha Bay municipal area in recent years.

The WCED has added a further R3-million to the donation by PetroSA, to bring the total investment in the new school to R18-million. Facilities at the new primary school will compare well with the best in the province.

PetroSA and the WCED have developed a strong partnership in recent years to improve the quality of education in the Western Cape, especially in Mossel Bay, where PetroSA operates the world's largest oil refinery using Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) technology.

The company has funded the building of the new Garden Route Primary School in Mossel Bay, while also investing in developing facilities at four other schools in the area, including computer and science laboratories.

The national Minister of Education, Naledi Pandor, and the MEC for Education in the Western Cape, Cameron Dugmore, challenged the Chief Executive Officer of PetroSA, Sipho Mkhize, to fund a new school on the West Coast, when they opened the Garden Route Primary School in December 2005.

PetroSA has risen to the challenge, and offered to invest R15-million in the new school in Vredenburg.

The company has donated more than R42-million nationally to education in recent years. This investment includes R13.8-million on Garden Route Primary and R10-million on refurbishing science and technology laboratories. PetroSA has donated R12-million to build a new school in Limpopo.

"The WCED is extremely grateful for these donations, which represent an important investment in the people and the future of the province and the country," Mr Swartz said.

The WCED, PetroSA and the Saldanha Bay Municipality have worked closely on developing a detailed business plan for the new school in Vredenburg.

The plan looks at socio-economic needs, trends, the state of the local economy, development planning and the burning issue of poverty.

The report looks at educational challenges on the West Coast, based on population growth, the language profile of the municipal area, the various ways in which the WCED has met these challenges to date, and the importance of building a new school in this area.

The Saldanha Bay economy has been growing steadily in recent years, especially in agriculture, forestry and fishing. The region has an excellent infrastructure, with good opportunities for development and job creation.

The economy is diversifying, to offering new kinds of employment, including jobs in tourism.

In spite of this, unemployment increased rapidly between 1996 and 2001, from 12.4% to 21.4%. The area is experiencing increased migration from farms to towns and the rapid growth of informal settlements in the municipal area.

The number of people living in poverty in this municipal area has grown from 7.9% in 1996 to 9.8% in 2002.

PetroSA has developed an oil and gas hub within the municipal boundaries, which offers important opportunities for investment and job creation.

"Social and economic development on the West Coast will require ongoing attention to social and human capital development in the short, medium and long term," Mr Swartz said.

"While we have to look at short-term solutions to relieve poverty and meet the need for skills of the growing local economy, schooling must provide the human capital the region needs in the long term."

"PetroSA has shown great foresight in being willing to invest in the people of the West Coast, while developing physical infrastructure such as the oil and gas hub in the Saldanha municipal area."

Population growth has already placed considerable pressures on the three existing schools in the Louwville and Vredenburg areas, which are oversubscribed, he added.

"The WCED and local school communities have worked well together to ensure an even spread of learners between schools. We still have to bus about 400 learners out of Vredenburg because a lack of primary school accommodation in Vredenburg."

Meanwhile, the language and cultural profile of area has changed fundamentally in recent years, with increasing numbers of isiXhosa and English speakers, although the area remains primarily Afrikaans-speaking.

"We have to look at ways of supporting mother-tongue education in the main languages represented here, while also promoting inclusive education in which learners can become competent in the three languages of the province," said Mr Swartz.

"Our planners have identified the need for a multi-cultural, inclusive school to cater for Grades R to 9, capable of building social capital and a non-racial future together in this area, in line with the province's vision of a 'Home for All'."

Advantages of the new school will include easing pressure on our other schools. The WCED will focus on developing language competencies in the official languages of the province.

"The department will use arts and culture to build a non-racial culture that respects diversity. The new school will promote science, technology and engineering, to meet local needs and in line with national priorities," said Mr Swartz.

"The WCED is proud to be working with PetroSA and the Saldanha Municipality on this exciting project, which will go a long way towards building the people of the West Coast, and the future of this region."

Issued by:
Paddy Attwell
Director: Communication
Western Cape Education Department
Tel: 021 467 2531
Fax: 021 461 3694
Email: pattwell@pgwc.gov.za

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