Archie Sibeko

TVS was inspired by Archie Sibeko ( known in the UK by his ‘struggle’ name of Zola Zembe). Zola was born in Tyume Valley and lived latterly in Tynemouth, England. He died on 27th March 2018, a few days after his 90th birthday.

Zola distinguished himself in the struggle against apartheid and was awarded the Order of Luthuli Silver Medal by President Thabo Mbeki. Shortly before he died he was awarded an honorary degree at Newcastle University in recognition of the contribution that he made.

Zola’s life was one of service and dedication to the struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa, which he saw as extending beyond the ending of apartheid up to the present day.

His great gift was to motivate others to work with him in support of his values and goals, demanding from them no less a commitment than he showed himself. His strong belief in the power of education led him from helping the primary school in his home village of Kwezana to the setting up of TVS and, latterly, the Archie Sibeko Rural Education Consortium which brings together a number of education and community organisations in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa. His fire burned strongly almost to the end and his work will continue though TVS and the many people who he influenced throughout his life.

In his own words

I was born and bred in the Tyume valley and went to Kwezana school, which was then based in the church. When I was able to go back to South Africa after 1990, I took my wife to Tyume to see where I had come from and meet my relatives. There was now a school building, but not much else had changed in over 40 years. The building had mud floors, no ceiling and no water supply. There was no electricity in the classrooms. There were no books, posters on the walls, art materials, sports equipment or musical instruments. The children were delightful, well behaved and could sing, but they were still getting ‘Bantu education, the rote learning suitable for the hewers of wood and drawers of water that the apartheid regime had intended them to be. We felt we ought to do something. The parentspriority was for water to be available, so we went into Alice and bought a water butt to replace the one that had once been there to catch rainwater off the roof but had long since sprung a leak. When we returned to Manchester, friends got interested in trying to help the school and started to raise money for books, sports kits etc. Maggie Kiloh, an old friend from Zambian days with a great commitment to South Africa, got involved. She and Margaret Woodward went out to see what practical help they could give the school and it all began from there. We felt that these children living in a poor rural area, many orphaned by AIDS and living with grandparents had the same rights as children anywhere to an education that would prepare them to play a part in the modern world and that is still our dream.