Felix Chimbinyu Murehwa, 26, is a man on a mission. He is trying to improve the lives of those in his community by helping them identify, nurture and apply their own talents.
A qualified mechanical engineer, he opted to quit his job as a project manager at Willard Batteries and returned to his former school in Motherwell to help pupils be better equipped to face real-world challenges.
Adopted at the age of seven after the deaths of his parents, Murehwa worked hard to overcome the odds and was one of the top students at Vulumzi High School in Motherwell when he matriculated in 2010.
He chose to study further and received his mechanical engineering degree from Nelson Mandela University. While working as a professional engineer, Murehwa kept feeling that there was something missing.
It was when he returned to his old school and realised the many needs they had that he found his purpose and the South African Talent Academy (SATA) was born.
The academy, which is based at Vulumzi High School, provides practical application of mathematics and science theories, with the aim of showing pupils how the theory applies to real life.
“It’s a fantastic experience showing them how things work. I once showed them how to build a home-made air-conditioning unit using a bucket with cold water to cool the air.
“A while later this Grade 9 learner came up to me and he had taken that knowledge and built his own version, and we are now working on improving it,” he said.
Murehwa has also introduced programmes at the school that focus on agriculture and woodwork. He has established a computer club at the school, with the aim of developing computer skills among pupils.
“We are also looking at opening the computer lab to members of the community, with the aim of upskilling them with basic computer skills that they could then apply in the workplace,” he said.
He is also working on getting new books for the school library, which is outdated and under resourced.
Murehwa’s programmes all have practical applications, with woodworking skills taught to the pupils being used to fix broken school furniture. Agricultural knowledge, such as making one’s own compost, can be used to develop sustainable community gardens.
A talented individual who can fashion myriads of creations with his bare hands, Murehwa has also started a small carpentry business, which operates as part of the academy. Profits generated from the carpentry work get ploughed back into the academy’s various projects.
“We want to develop the school as a flagship, with the aim of rolling out similar projects across Motherwell, and who knows, in ten years’ time it could be rolling out across the whole of Africa” he said.
But the engineer-turned-teacher’s vision does not just end there, he is also engaging with university students, and helping them find their own purpose.
“Many students go to university, but don’t know why, or what they want to do when they graduate. There are also many who graduate, but can’t find work.
“We are also engaging with businesses and are looking at how we can match these graduates with businesses,” he said.