Around 1,600 primary school students from notable mining areas in South Africa – at the Tebogo Primary School in Sonop, located near the platinum mines of Rustenburg, and Kgabang Primary School in Ritchie, outside of Kimberley, a city of considerable historical significance due to its diamond mining past – now have easy access to educational reading material through two Mandela Day libraries sponsored by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).
The opening ceremonies for the new libraries, which took place on October 23 and 24, were attended by school officials and representatives from GIA and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. As part of the events, GIA also hosted 20 students ages 13 to 15 for its Junior Gemologist Program™ at each school.
“By bringing educational resources to rural communities like Sonop and Ritchie, both quite close to important mining areas, we advance our mission of building trust in the world of gems and jewelry,” said Brad Brooks-Rubin, GIA’s global director of development and beneficiation. “And what could be a more fitting tribute to Nelson Mandela’s legacy than to build the next generation of leadership through the slow and careful human processes inside a library.”
The Mandela Day libraries project is dedicated to bridging the gap in literacy and reading proficiency in schools throughout South Africa by recycling and retrofitting large shipping containers with new flooring, insulation, electricity and book shelves to create libraries. Breadline Africa, a nongovernmental organization and internationally registered South African-based charity, is the main partner of the program. GIA’s sponsorship of the Mandela Day libraries project is funded by the GIA endowment, which supports education and scholarship programs. In March 2014, two GIA-sponsored libraries opened in rural Limpopo, South Africa.
GIA’s Junior Gemologist Program™, which gives 10 15-year-old students the opportunity to discover the world of gemology through hands-on, practical training, was introduced in sub-Saharan Africa in 2012, and has taken place in Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.
Since 2008, GIA has expanded its activities and presence in sub-Saharan Africa, opening two full-time laboratories and offering classes in Gaborone, Botswana and Johannesburg, South Africa; establishing partnerships with government agencies and universities throughout the continent; and maintaining a network of active alumni. Today, there are more than 900 alumni in Africa and GIA Alumni Chapters in South Africa and Botswana.