Business tycoon Cyril Ramaphosa’s face lit up yesterday as he walked through the yard of a school he had attended as a 10-year-old. Tshilidzi Primary School in Chiawelo, Soweto, was abuzz as Ramaphosa embarked on a Back to School for a Day initiative.

The event, during which hundreds of individuals visit other schools across the country, was part of a call made by Ramaphosa last year.

The chairman of the Adopt-a-School Foundation said the significance of returning to Tshilidzi was that it had shaped him into the person he was today.

“Today is special because of what we have set out to do. I chose Tshilidzi because this is where the Adopt-a-School Foundation really began.”

Ramaphosa said the programme largely focused on building schools. However, the foundation had since shifted its focus to an encompassing school development programme which included academic and social aspects.

While the initiative has been successful with the support of the government and other organisations and businesses, Ramaphosa said more work and “more hands” were needed.

“My vision is for us to adopt a 100 more schools in the next year and to rope in 50 companies to help us. Many of us are unaware of the positive impact we have on learners. Back to School for a Day is not only about giving money, but about sharing your time and finding out how you can help a school.”

The Adopt-a-School project had humble beginnings.

According to Tshilidizi’s former principal Stella Nemukula, it began with a team of willing alumni students and a fax machine.

Nemukula, who initiated the programme, said she and her teachers had sought ways to uplift and upgrade the school. To their delight, Ramaphosa and several others came on board.

“The machine, which was donated to us by Cyril, was one of the ways we could communicate with our respective sponsors. Soon after that more blessings came. Cyril donated a wing of classes and others donated equipment. These contributions helped us tremendously,” said Nemukula.

Another former pupil who returned to the school to soak up the atmosphere of her childhood was Ramaphosa’s sister Ivy.

“Back then there wasn’t much to do. It’s heartening to see how Tshilidzi has improved and changed. The programme has certainly gone a long way and has touched the lives of many other pupils across the country,” she said. -Saturday Star