In 1971, Ruth and Cecil Hershler began a lasting relationship with Fezeka Senior Secondary; an association that ultimately led to the creation of Education without Borders 31 years later.
Feeling unable to continue living a life of privilege in apartheid South Africa, Ruth and Cecil made the decision to immigrate to Canada. But in the year-and-a-half before they left, wanting in some small way to make a positive impact, they sought out a black township school that they could assist. They found Fezeka Senior Secondary School in the township of Philippi, outside of Cape Town, where they befriended the principal, Mr. Eric Ndadani, and the vice-principal, Mr. Banzi Lubelwana.
Ruth and Cecil raised funds for Fezeka by approaching private donors. Funds raised went toward a hall, a fence, books and scientific instruments. Recognizing the need for educational asisstance, Ruth and Cecil wrote a letter to the Bantu Education Department, asking permission to bring white students from the University of Cape Town to give lectures and extra lessons on a volunteer basis. Their request was refused because the government would not allow whites to teach blacks.
Just before leaving for Canada, Ruth and Cecil’s first child, Abby, was born. Mr. Ndadani, Mr. Lubelwana and their wives arrived at the Hershler’s home laden with gifts to honour the baby, having braved the journey into white territory.
When Ruth and Cecil told the administrators about their imminent departure they were invited to participate in the upcoming Fezeka graduation: Ruth was to give out the prizes; Cecil was to give the commencement speech. “What could I possibly tell that student body?” Cecil says. “I could not address issues of their outer world. So I spoke to them about kindness, because at some point in our lives we are all strangers in a strange place.”
Ruth and Cecil immigrated to North America.
After almost 30 years, Ruth and Cecll returned to South Africa for the first time and met with Fezeka’s new principal, Mr. Bucks Baloyi.
The old school had burned down, except for the hall (the Abby Hershler Hall) which became a civic building. Fezeka Senior Secondary relocated to the township of Gugulethu.
Ruth and Cecil created Education without Borders, a non-profit organization based in Vancouver. Education without Borders was created with a broad vision of enhancing education in disadvantaged regions of the world and an initial focus on Fezeka.
EwB obtained its charitable status in March, 2003.