The first black woman to summit Mount Everest now wants to tackle the digital divide in SA

The first black woman to conquer Mount Everest hopes to raise R1 million to build nine digital libraries across South Africa. Saray Khumalo will attempt to break the Guinness World Record by spinning on a bicycle for eight hours later this month. She believes that if we give children digital tools, we can literally change the future of the next generation.

“Covid-19 has shown us that children can be left behind if they don’t have the tools needed to compete globally. My 15-year-old son is not just competing with children in South Africa, but with kids in other parts of the world who have every technological advantage,” said Khumalo.

Her passion for social change was inspired by her grandfather, whose philosophy was: “A life not lived in service, is a life wasted”. Khumalo’s enduring spirit to overcome adversity was demonstrated by the four attempts it took before she successfully reached the summit of Mount Everest last year.

“My son kept asking me when I was going back to the mountain, and when I heard that no black African woman had ever summited Mount Everest, I gave it another shot. Three weeks before I reached the top, my friend, who encouraged me to return to the mountain, passed away, so it was extra special for me when I finally made it. It wasn’t about achieving this remarkable feat, but it meant I could raise more money for education,” said the mountaineer.

Khumalo was able to open five libraries across South Africa and she shows no signs of slowing down.“I have already raised funds to open a digital library in Mpumalanga which I am pleased to say will go live on October 15. But that is separate from the record attempt,” she said. When she’s not climbing, Khumalo mentors matriculants and is also a transformation coach.

For her World Guinness record attempt, she has partnered with IschoolAfrica, which has been aiming to cross the digital divide since 2009. Khumalo will be joined by Director, Michelle Lissoos, who is also passionate about education and social change through technology.“Saray and I believe that our children deserve the best technological resources for success. And we have found the best in her. Only the best for the best,” said Lissoos.

Ischool Africa has connections with 214 schools nationally and has trained more than 3 000 educators and reached more than 100 000 learners.“During covid, we saw private schools, immediately go digital. A lack of access to resources, data and devices means that most kids will be left behind and we cannot let that happen,” said the Director.

Khumalo and her team go live at 6.30am on October 25 from four Planet fitness gyms across South Africa.

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