Friday, December 14, 2012

Container Shipping Group Sees Investment in Education Come to Fruition

Faith in the Future During a Time of Trouble Pays Off as First South African Student Becomes Master Mariner
Shipping News Feature

SOUTH AFRICA - In 1999, when 16-year-old South African, Tobela Gqabu, applied for a Safmarine bursary to complete his schooling at the Lawhill Maritime Centre – named after a famous sailing ship which saw the maritime education of an earlier generation and which now prepares young South Africans for employment by providing them with maritime-related skills and knowledge while they are still at school - he’d never seen an actual ship, nor had he heard about container shipping line Safmarine or the subjects Maritime Economics and Nautical Science which are offered as part of the national senior certificate curriculum at Lawhill. Thirteen years later, in 2012 and at the age of 28, Tobela Gqabu became the Lawhill Maritime Centre’s first internationally-qualified Master Mariner, having obtained his Master’s Certificate of Competency or Class 1 maritime qualification.

The occasion marks an important milestone, not just in the life of Tobela, nor even simply in Safmarine’s long history of maritime achievement, but as a symbol of the incredible changes this remarkable country has undergone in the past two decades. Safmarine CEO, Grant Daly, who grew up in the Eastern Cape town of Molteno, not far from Tobela’s home in Manzana Village, Engcobo, puts the case quite suucinctly saying:

“Tobela’s qualification as a Master Mariner represents a very proud moment in the history of Safmarine. Seventeen years ago, Safmarine decided to partner the South African Department of Education and the Simon’s Town School in establishing the Lawhill Maritime Studies programme at the school, and Tobela’s achievement is an example of how mutually-beneficial this partnership between business and education, has been.”

Even though Tobela is currently working ashore, as a ship’s surveyor for the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), he plans to return to sea when the right opportunity comes along, ideally to take command of a product tanker and says he has aspired to command his own ship for so many years that now he has his Master’s Ticket, it’s important that he turns that aspiration into reality.

Unlike many Western cultures over half of South Africa’s population is under the age of 25 and Brian Ingpen, Head of the Lawhill Maritime Centre feels Tobela’s achievement and the success of the Lawhill partnership with Safmarine should inspire other companies to collaborate with educational bodies to address skills development and unemployment in South Africa saying:

“Throughout his school career at Lawhill, Tobela showed a strong determination and commitment to succeed and the fact that he has achieved his Master’s Ticket 10 years after matriculating, is further proof of that determination. The South African Census results published in October 2012 showed that South Africa is becoming a younger nation. This is why we need more of these partnerships to empower our youth to contribute positively to the future of our country. Together we can create many more positive role models, like Tobela Gqabu.

“Safmarine’s contribution to the Maritime Studies programme for almost two decades has gone beyond merely providing financial support. Over the years, Safmarine staff have contributed their time and talents and between 1997 and 2010, Lawhill House, constructed from 47 shipping containers donated by Safmarine, made it possible for out-of-town students, such as Tobela, to attend the programme and obtain a quality education in a supportive, boarding school environment. Thanks to the foundation provided by the company, the programme today enjoys the support of both the local and international maritime industry.”

When Tobela joined the Maritime Studies programme in 2000, Safmarine was the programme’s major funder and principal supporter and now the company has confirmed that Safmarine will continue to fund the Lawhill programme in 2013, its 18th year of support.