“If you build a house, you do build it for yourself. If you build a school, you build it for your community.”
Some might say that Muzokhanyanyo Reginald Mkhize was inspired by those words when he built his now iconic Las Vegas Primary School, which opened it’s doors in 1993. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, his story is much more than a dream made out of a mantra.
“I had never heard of that (quote) when the idea of starting a creche first hit me, it was around 1991,” said Mkhize.
But before there was Las Vegas, there was a dream.
As a youngster, Mkhize left his home in Ulundi, Northern KwaZulu Natal, to Umlazi in pursuit of his dream of being a mechanical engineer. He finished grade 12 at age 27 and did some engineering courses, which he completed earlier than expected. He achieved his dream of being an engineer when he joined Engen but it was short lived.
Two years into his arrival at Engen, he caught fire at work and was burnt. When he realised he couldn’t work anymore he knew he needed another way to survive.
“That’s how the idea of starting a pre-school came about. But to simply build a pre-school would be a short term solution. I needed something different so I decided to start the first school of it’s kind in Umlazi, that had English as the first language. I did it to provide for my family,” added.
Las Vegas has not only changed his family’s life however, the whole Umlazi J section community is benefiting.
“Mr Mkhize has brought jobs to the community. School kids wash Las Vegas cars for pocket money and when he is building or needs artisan skills he employs those from the community,” said Gloria Mthembu, his neighbour.
Nkosikhona Cele, a driver at Las Vegas, says he owes a lot to Mr Mkhize.
“I was just a drop out when he took me. He helped me get a license then I was hired as his driver. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for him,” said Cele.
Simphiwe Shozi, a community member whose son is schooling at Las Vegas, praises his innovation and influence.
“He took the model c education to the black township way before anyone could even think of anything like it. Growing up we didn’t have to look further for role models, we all wanted to be like Mr Mkhize,” he said.