1971: Ruth & Cecil Hershler at Fezeka
In 1971, Ruth and Cecil Hershler began what has evolved into a lasting relationship with Fezeka Senior Secondary; an association that led to the creation of Education without Borders 31 years later.
Feeling unable to continue living a life of privilege in apartheid South Africa, they 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, finding Fezeka in the township of Philippi outside of Cape Town.
They befriended the principal, Mr. Eric Ndadani, and the vice-principal, Mr. Banzi Lubelwana and, by approaching private donors, were able to raise money for a hall, a fence, books and scientific instruments.
They 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, but the request was refused: the government would not allow whites to teach blacks.
In 1972, 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.”
2002: Education without Borders is Formed
Ruth and Cecil immigrated to North America in 1973 but did not forget Fezeka. In 2001, after almost 30 years, they 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 is now a civic building. Fezeka Senior Secondary is now located in the township of Gugulethu.
In 2002, Ruth and Cecil created the non-profit organization Education without Borders in Vancouver 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 (Canadian Registered Charity #87301 3718 RR0001).