Mitzvah School – an unsung educational hero
In 1986 Bet David allowed the project on its premises for a year as a class to help 24 learners from nearby Alexandra township – until the education crisis had passed.
Housing a school for blacks in the mainly white suburb of Morningside was illegal at the time during the apartheid era with its inferior education for blacks.
There was some resistance from blacks as well, some of whom advocated “liberation before education”.
Yet education – and good education – has always been a prime Jewish value, in the face of both discrimination and opposition from outsiders. This ethos no doubt motivated Molly Smith, the first principal, and Lesley Rosenberg the present one, to initiate the project, with the support of Temple David and its chairman, Philip Mayers, in defiance of the apartheid regime.
The success of Mitzvah School’s first year resulted in the programme being extended, even though the school was raided several times and threatened with closure.
But the Mitzvah School persevered – even today the education crisis has not passed – and it now has a proud record of over 30 years of service to Alexandra learners, with an average of 40 young people from underperforming local schools each year.
In 1989, as apartheid approached its death throes, Mitzvah School was finally recognised by the authorities and registered as an educational institution. It is a registered non-profit organisation, with no government funding.
In 1994 Rosenberg took over as principal, leading a team of well-qualified and nurturing teachers.
Last year 95 per cent of the learners passed their matric examinations, with three-quarters of them obtaining good enough marks for university admission (the national average is under half of that).
The top student last year, Kamogelo Tswai, obtained seven distinctions.
The school provides classes for matrics only. The average pass rate over the years has been over 95 per cent. Many of the school graduates went on to obtain university degrees and have had successful business and professional careers – including doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, actors and musicians.
Past learners visit the school regularly, motivating current learners through their achievements.