Music giant donates R1.5m to historic arts school

R1.5m donation helps National School of the Arts keep doors open

Universal Music South Africa, through Universal Music Group’s Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC), announced a partnership with South Africa’s National School of the Arts (NSA) that will save the iconic school from closure due to economic pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Universal Music South Africa, through Universal Music Group’s Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC), announced a partnership with South Africa’s National School of the Arts (NSA) that will save the iconic school from closure due to economic pressures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Image: Supplied

The cash-strapped National School of the Arts (NSA) has been offered a lifeline after Universal Music SA donated R1.5m to prevent it from shutting its doors.

The leading specialist arts school in the country announced in August that it was facing possible closure due to economic uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The school receives R3m each year from the government’s school of specialisation budget that goes towards enhancing curriculum delivery. It also gets funding of R2.8m from the department of education.  

“Things were dire and stressed in terms of money. We were down to probably our last R200,000 in the bank with monthly expenses of R1.3m. This generous donation will see us get to the end of the year,” NSA principal Gary Natali said.

“So the monthly expenses go towards water and lights, salaries and we have a hostel. Parents weren’t able to pay school fees. We have seen a 20% increase in applications for exemption where parents can’t pay school fees compared to most years. Normally we budget for a certain amount, but this year it went up.”

Over its 50-year run, NSA has produced stars such as Charlize Theron, Lorna Maseko, Langa Mavuso, Moshidi Motshegwa and Zoë Modiga.

Transnet and NSA alumni have also donated during this period.

“As the year has unfolded there were days and moments when we felt hopeless. As a school we came to a place where there was no money in our account,” NSA treasurer Corin Mathews said.

“We are part of a marginalised community of being creatives and I’m a father of a child that is a creative. I can’t understand him on most days. But I know that his world is complex and hard.

“I don’t know how to express that with this partnership about 50 households for 2020 will not worry about paying school fees. All they need to do is send their kids to school to do what they love.”

NSA, situated in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, has almost 600 pupils.

Things were dire and stressed in terms of money. We were down to probably our last R200,000 in the bank with monthly expenses of R1.3m

“We would like to thank Universal Music for making this partnership possible. This is not about monetary value, it’s about the fact that a seed has been planted on the fertile soil of our school,” Grade 11 pupil Lutho Zwane said.

His classmate Vuyelwa Phota added: “Thank you for this beautiful donation ... we hope that this connection that has been established will live on and continue birthing more fruits.”

As part of the partnership the music department at NSA will be renamed Universal Music Department. They will also renovate the school to make it look cooler and more upbeat.

“The reason we have asked to do that is because this contribution that we wish to make goes beyond the financial sense. There will be a lot of engagements and interactions from us as a company,” said Sipho Dlamini, MD at Universal Music SA.

“Our artists will speak to the students to inspire them and our staff from the studio will share time with them. We are also looking at internship programmes for the learners during school holidays. Concerts and events that we produce will start working with the school to open up opportunities for learners.”

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