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South Africa: Safmarine-pioneered maritime education programme celebrates its first Master Mariner

In 1999, when 16-year-old South African, Tobela Gqabu, applied for a Safmarine bursary to complete his schooling at the Lawhill Maritime Centre – a centre which prepares young South Africans for employment by providing them with maritime-related skills and knowledge while they are still at school - he’d never seen an actual ship, nor had he heard about shipping line Safmarine or the subjects Maritime Economics and Nautical Science which are offered as part of the national senior certificate curriculum at Lawhill.

Thirteen years later, in 2012 and at the age of 28, Tobela Gqabu became the Lawhill Maritime Centre’s first internationally-qualified Master Mariner, having obtained his Master’s Certificate of Competency or Class 1 maritime qualification.

According to Safmarine CEO, Grant Daly, who grew up in the Eastern Cape town of Molteno, not far from Tobela’s home in Manzana Village, Engcobo, “Tobela’s qualification as a Master Mariner represents a very proud moment in the history of Safmarine.

“Seventeen years ago, Safmarine decided to partner the South African Department of Education and the Simon’s Town School in establishing the Lawhill Maritime Studies programme at the school, and Tobela’s achievement is an example of how mutually-beneficial this partnership between business and education, has been.”

Commenting on Tobela’s achievement, Brian Ingpen, Head of the Lawhill Maritime Centre, said: “Throughout his school career at Lawhill, Tobela showed a strong determination and commitment to succeed and the fact that he has achieved his Master’s Ticket 10 years after matriculating, is further proof of that determination.”

Even though Tobela is currently working ashore, as a ship’s surveyor for the SA Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA), he plans to return to sea when the right opportunity comes along, ideally to take command of a product tanker.

“I aspired to command a ship for so many years and now that I have my Master’s Ticket, it’s important that I turn that aspiration into reality.”

With more than half of South Africa’s population under the age of 25, Ingpen feels Tobela’s achievement and the success of the Lawhill partnership with Safmarine should inspire other companies to collaborate with educational bodies to address skills development and unemployment in South Africa.

“The South African Census results published in October 2012 showed that South Africa is becoming a younger nation. This is why we need more of these partnerships to empower our youth to contribute positively to the future of our country. Together we can create many more positive role models, like Tobela Gqabu.”

Ingpen says Safmarine’s ongoing support for the maritime programme shows that “Safmarine’s promise of ‘making the difference’ applies as much to its support of talented South African youth interested in the maritime industry, as it does to its customers, who rely on Safmarine to ship their cargo from one end of the world to the other.

He says when Tobela joined the Maritime Studies programme in 2000, Safmarine was the programme’s major funder and principal supporter.

“Safmarine’s contribution to the Maritime Studies programme for almost two decades has gone beyond merely providing financial support. Over the years, Safmarine staff have contributed their time and talents and between 1997 and 2010, Lawhill House, constructed from 47 shipping containers donated by Safmarine, made it possible for out-of-town students, such as Tobela, to attend the programme and obtain a quality education in a supportive, boarding school environment.

“Thanks to the foundation provided by the company, the programme today enjoys the support of both the local and international maritime industry.”

Safmarine will continue to fund the Lawhill programme in 2013, its 18th year of support.

For more information:
Debbie Owen
Tel: + 27 (2) 21 788 9962

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