To my dear friend, my rock, the person who has been constant in my life for the last 4 years, who I could always count on.
When I met Bizi Magwaza in 2016, she was principal of Mshwati Memorial – a remote rural school in upper Tongaat.
She had a dream-it was simple. To up-lift the lives of those around her…in any way possible.
So our journey began, with her big expressive eyes and boundless optimism, tackling the problems of the severely under-resourced Mshwati Memorial, typical of many of the schools in our country. You name it, we tackled it. No school kitchen? Rope in a donor to re-fit a kitchen removed from a suburban mom’s home. No Library? …no problem, convert a storeroom into a miniature space, warm and friendly, that the children love as their haven, we scrounged for shelving + books. Community garden? started with a full 4 day workshop, which is now feeding families that literally have run out of food. Huge absenteeism-we connected with Glide n Ride and introduced fun bike lessons once a week-‘no school no ride’ quickly sorted out the attendance, resulting in improved marks all round. Pit latrines of the worst I have seen-with no running water, sometimes maggot infestations, children supervised when going to the toilet-its currently a WIP with the generous donation of a Trust ….6 new toilets being built right now.
The list goes on and on-challenges many of our principals face over and above the complex management task of running a school
With 90% unemployment in the area we tapped into the Youth Empowerment Scheme-YES. I knew it would be a lot of work so advised Bizie to apply for 1 intern-well true to form she ended up with 4….each one learning and growing under her guidance.
Then there is Amahle…. Bizie recognised her natural intelligence + kept asking me to help her with her senior education. ‘Bizie’, I said, ‘don’t show me that child-she not my problem’, avoiding the Gr6 classroom. Needless to say I contacted Inanda Seminary, she was awarded a 50% bursary and the fund raising for the balance began. Amahle came overall 1st in her grade 8 year.
Not only did Mrs Magwaza do everything in her power to uplift those she could-she uplifted and grew herself. She never gave up. She begged to be on the PFP programme realising she didn’t want to stagnate. So many people I know stick in their job…where they feel safe and in control. Bizie took on the challenges of the leadership programme whole heartedly. She didn’t miss a module or COP, acquiring new skills and setting goals beyond her comfort zone…she inspired her team to keep growing. Her legacy will continue through her team at Mshwati and beyond. One of her proudest moments was receiving the Portfolio of Evidence from the University of the Western Cape-she had spent weekends working on it.
When she received her copy of the latest Partners for Possibility she was so pleased..there are so many of her stories told through out the book…in 3 different chapters. In the words of Theo Garrun- “that a school like Mshwati in the middle of nowhere, with so much going on, is an amazing story and a testament to Bizie-along with Gill Terry and the PFP programme’
She also had an amazing ability to connect, always beautifully dressed in high heels and bright dresses, she welcomed everyone to Mshwati. The richest of rich, poorest of poor. From the most urban environment at Simbithi to the very rural farmlands, whether you were a ‘have’ or a ‘have not’ Bizie behaved with ‘aplomb’ I have been looking at the tributes to her-she changed the story of so many of us. Everywhere Bizie went, people connected and remembered her.
“Mama Bizie” writes Jodi Chetty “I will miss your HUGE smile and the way you hug me breathless every time you popped into the Club” says it all
So my friend, you have touched the lives of many, teachers, other principals, learners interns …. What a legacy you have left. You warmly embraced everyone who came your way, truly understanding how to create a feeling of ease. You have become a pillar in the Mshwati community-parents of learners leaning on you for support, young adults, from no parent homes feeling secure…seen heard and loved at school
To your two beautiful daughters, your mom was one incredible woman. She has raised 2 beautiful women. I hope you are able to draw inspiration from your Mom’s life, that you will be motivated move out of your comfort zone and achieve your dreams-thats what your Mom would have wanted. Take your strength from your Mom-she was never handed life on a silver platter, and grabbed opportunities with both hands.
Bizie I am going to miss you.
Written By Gill Cox
Business leader to Bizie Magwaza