Agricultural schools feeding the future of Eastern Cape farming is the message being drummed into the minds of the people.
Education MEC Mandla Makupula beat this drum even harder when he officially handed over Tyelimhlophe Agricultural High School to the Lugangeni village and community.
The school was started in 2014 and has been building its numbers until this year, when it will accommodate its first Grade 12 class.
Speaking in the rural hinterland of KwaBhaca on Thursday, Makupula said SA was facing growing unemployment and poverty, and agriculture schools were crucial in addressing skills shortages and assisting in food production.
Tyelimhlophe is the 13th agricultural school opened by education authorities in the province in recent years, and the 10th to open since Makupula took over as Education MEC.
The MEC also donated new Ford Ranger single-cab bakkies to seven agricultural schools while Tyelimhlophe also received five Simbrah cattle, a cross between a simmental and a brahman.
Makupula said he wanted the school to start a farming project which would sell milk to the community.
This would create job opportunities for the people of Lugangeni village.
Tyelimhlophe school principal Fikile Giwu said they were very happy with the donation.
The school boasts 600 pupils between Grades 10 and 12, with some of them coming from as far as Mbizana and Emaxesibeni.
Giwu said the school had acquired more than 600ha of land from the Lugangeni village community.
Grade 12 pupil Qhawekazi Phindo, who hails from Mnqwane village in Emaxesibeni, said she was hoping the school could help her become an agricultural engineer. “Yes we are sometimes the butt of jokes from other pupils who say the only thing we do is milk cows, but I love what we do here and wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Lugangeni community leader and former MPL Zola Mlenzana wants to see the establishment of a thriving dairy processing plant and an abattoir at Tyelimhlophe. He said there were a number of co-ops in the area which would tap into agricultural knowledge at the school.
Makupula said his department had already opened two maritime schools in the province and planned to open 12 technical schools.
Port St Johns, which was identified to get a small fishing harbour, would probably get a maritime school as well, added Makupula. — sikhon@ dispatch.co.za