Published On: Fri, Jun 2nd, 2017

Havard philanthropist in touch with South African roots

THEN- Mfundo Radebe at graduation in South Africa with his mother, Nobuhle ZwaneDURBAN, (CAJ News) – MFUNDO Radebe, the township boy whose emergence from poverty to Havard, one of the world’s most prestigious universities, captured the imagination of the globe, has made good on his promise to empower peers in his homeland where education is still a luxury to the underprivileged.

NOW- Mfundo Radebe at Harvard.

NOW- Mfundo Radebe at Harvard.

The aptly-named youngster, raised by his single mother in the small town of Umlazi in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal is determined to assist through an initiative that has been widely endorsed, including by such figures as Nobel Prize Laureate, Wole Soyinka.
Radebe, who turned 20 in April, faced great hardship growing up surrounded by poverty but he refused to let these circumstances deter him.
The youth, whose first name translated to “education”, He worked hard and excelled at school, came top of his class and then began writing to the private sector for assistance to further his education at a private school.
A timely intervention by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed listed ADvTECH Group, Africa’s largest private education provider, was pivotal.
He would later graduate from a local private school after having become the first ever recipient of a full scholarship from the institution.
With Ivy League universities, of which Havard is a member, visiting ADvTECH schools to scout for the brightest and most promising young learners, Radebe in 2015received the opportunity of a lifetime to study overseas.
It is then he made a pledge to return to South Africa and contribute to its development.
The pledge has given birth to the Dlulisa Initiative, through which Radebe aims to empower peers struggling to fellow youth.
“The Dlulisa Initiative will truly make a big difference for South Africa,” said the scholar, who has finished his first year at Havard.
Unsatisfied to focus on his own success and studies, Radebe has spent his first year overseas setting up the initiative, forming partnerships and setting organisational structures.
The strategy is to partner with companies as well as private and more privileged schools, even those that are already passing on resources, to provide a consistent stream of resources to underprivileged schools.
“We have also received several endorsements, including from Nobel Prize Laureate, Wole Soyinka,” he said.
Dlulisa translates to “pass on” or “transfer” hence it collects unused books, textbooks, study guides and dictionaries from partner private schools, companies and communities and gives them to less-privileged schools.
Back in South Africa for a few weeks, he explained how the initiative was born.
“Dlulisa is truly about the big picture of what we can do as a country.  When I was at home after my first semester at Harvard, I realised that many of my textbooks, study guides, and
stationery packs were still in my cupboard. My friends told me the same of theirs,” said the young man.
“I realised how fortunate I was as a young man from Umlazi to have been given all of these resources from my school. Without these resources, I would have never finished with eight distinctions. I might not have been a Harvard student,” he said.
He recognises that to be where he is today, it takes hard work “but it is also about luck.”
“That is why I think that every child should be given an equal playing field so that they can be the best that they can be. This is what we owe every single South African child as a country. It feels like a deep personal commitment that I think we should all undertake.”
He said this create a network of accountable South Africans who would be making a difference.
“We are building an international advocacy campaign that will take these messages of support and the growth of the system that we will see to then fundraise internationally for the initiative, to ensure that we can get every single South African child the books and resources they need,” said Radebe.
Radebe has put together a formidable team to ensure the success of the Dlulisa Initiative.
“This initiative brings together some of the most accomplished young people, I believe, in the world, and I am privileged to say I call each and every one of them my friends,” he says.
In South Africa, the team consists of former Junior Mayor of Port Elizabeth, Jess Mandel, who is hailed for improving the city’s governance structures. Another is budding philanthropist, Sibongakonke Kheswa, who helped raise millions in the CEO Sleepout to help the homeless.
In the US, there is Miles Weddle, who has a tutoring business throughout the country. Russell Reed, who started a non-profit connect the disabled to employment resources, and Katie Mulkowsky, who has conducted ground-breaking research on resource allocation in France and South Africa, are also part of the team.
“We are all very passionate about South Africa. My American friends have been deeply touched by my story about how a township boy can make it to Harvard and feel a profound conviction that we should create a system that allows more people to get here.”
Soyinka stated, “Sound initiative. Happy to endorse.”
A national debating champion and international grand champion at an essay competition while still at school, Radebe continues raking in the awards.
Recently, he was the recipient of a Civil Society/Social Cohesion Award at the SA National Youth Awards.
The graduate, whose peers already call “Mr President”, discloses an intention of entering South African politics upon completing his tertiary.
“I am not sure in what role, but I feel that my deep desire to create an equitable and fair country where all children are given access to the resources they need can only come about when I step into the political arena,” he said.
He pointed out many South African children have not given the chance to be the best that they can be.
“I am (the best I can be) today, however, because I constantly pushed myself and because I refused to give up to the status quo.”

CAJ News

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