A science and technology school built in Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape, was inspired by former president Nelson Mandela, his grandson Mandla said. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

Mvezo - A science and technology school built in Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape, was inspired by former president Nelson Mandela, his grandson Mandla said on Thursday.

“(This is) mainly because of his vision and the manner he regarded education to be a weapon which one could utilise to change the world,” he said at the Mandela School of Science and Technology.

President Jacob Zuma will officially open the school on Friday.

“That is really the ethos that informs us... as a nation to do better and to strive to contribute towards humanity,” Mandela said.

Surrounded by traditional leaders from the area, he said it was up to the traditional council and the Mvezo Development Trust to ensure they invested in future leaders and the children of the area.

The school, which is surrounded by green hills, is the first high school in Mvezo.

Before it was built, children had to leave home to go to high school in Mthatha, about 50km away, and often dropped out.

“It was then crucial for us, as the leadership of this community, to look at how we could come up with a mechanism to ensure that we are able to build an end-to-end programme for the kids of this community,” Mandela said.

“We initiated the project by firstly speaking to (Nelson Mandela) and he was very touched.”

Mvezo is where the anti-apartheid struggle leader was born.

Mandla Mandela and other community leaders started fundraising for the project.

They raised R3.2 million in Sweden, and engineering company Siemens contributed Euros 10 million (about R148m).

Work on the school started at the beginning of 2012, on land occupied by two families. The families agreed to move their houses for the school, which opened this year.

Acting principal Pat Toni said it had 420 pupils in grades eight, nine and 10. Next year Grade 11 classes would start, and in 2016 the school would have its first group of matrics.

Most of the children were from Mvezo and the surrounding villages.

The school would follow the national curriculum.

Grade Nines would be able to focus on one of four areas in their final three years: science, technology, engineering, or agriculture.

“We have sufficient facilities. We have two computer laboratories, a library, and everything else,” Toni said.

He said parents and locals were motivated and committed to the school's success.

The school runs on renewable energy. There are three big wind turbines in front of the school. Each classroom block is fitted with solar panels.

On the school grounds is a metal sculpture of a tree, called the Tree of Wisdom. Surrounding it are wooden benches into which are etched inspirational quotes.

Children, wearing green and orange uniforms, attended classes on Thursday.

Ntlahl Kelembe, 17, from Mthatha, said he was excited to learn about “important things”.

“I want to be an engineer,” he said.

Asithandile Matshong, 18, from Mvezo, said her favourite subject was maths. She said she was happy to be at school and could not wait to play netball.