Life’s challenges

Sibusiso Vilane has stood on the summit of Everest twice.

On the 26th May 2003, he became the first black African to reach the top of the world’s tallest mountain. He did it again in 2005 accompanied by Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

But Sibu wasn’t born in Europe or North America. He didn’t come from a wealthy family that encouraged “mountaineering” as a pastime. In fact, I doubt he came from a family where there was such a thing as pastimes. Sibu was born at Shongwe Mission in Mpumalanga, even more rural than Shabalala (for those of you who have visited the village where Hazyview Digital Learning Centre is located).

His parents moved the family to nearby Swaziland and it was there that Sibu began school at the age of 11. One of my favourite quotes from Sibu’s book talks about his very rural school days:

“Our teacher was dedicated to giving us the best education she could. Indeed, you can receive a very good education under a tree – if your teacher is dedicated.”

Well, here Sibu was, standing under the Hazyview Digital Tree of Knowledge, teaching us about dedication.

His message is clear:

“We all have an Everest. Not necessarily a mountain, but a challenge or an opportunity. It is our choice whether or not that ‘Everest’ can and will be conquered. It does not matter where you come from. Have your dream. Work hard.”

You would describe Sibu as a philanthropist. Whether it’s trekking to the South Pole, finding new routes up Everest or doing a “quick” Comrades, he is constantly on the go, “expeditioning” and raising money and awareness for good causes in South Africa. His underlying reason is always to show young people from villages and backgrounds such as his own that you can “do anything and have everything you wish to have.”

In fact, Sibu is one of a handful of South Africans, and the first black African, to achieve the feat of climbing each of the Seven Summits, the seven highest peaks on each of the seven continents:

1. Kilimanjaro (Africa) 1999
2. Everest (Asia) 2003 and 2005
3. Aconcagua (South America) 2006
4. Elbrus (Europe) 2006
5. Carstensz Pyramid (Oceania) 2006
6. Vinson (Antarctica) 2006
7. Denali/McKinley (North America) 2008

“The future entirely depends on the education of children, their access to information to broaden their thinking and understanding of the ever-changing and challenging world” says Sibu.

We couldn’t agree more. Access to world-class education is our “Everest”. And we intend on getting to the top.

Thank you Sibu. It was a privilege to have you teaching and inspiring under our tree.


P.S. To watch a great CNN interview with Sibu, click on the following link: