The Early Days

Unwavering conviction and unshakeable faith were the two main characteristics among other positive attitudes of the founders who established and developed the Merebank Tamil School Society (MTSS).

Their tenacity in the face of setbacks and problems in the earlier years and their unrelenting determination to achieve their goal, ultimately led to success. Those pioneers who cherished only noble and unselfish ideals deserve great admiration. About seven years after the organisation was founded, the late ST Nadasen Odayar, a lover and patron of Tamil culture and a philanthropist, donated a plot of land in Lake Road. This was in 1943. The dream to build a Tamil School was realized on this land.

So in 1965 the property of the Merebank Tamil School Society was expropriated by the Natal Provincial Administration. The Merebank Tamil School then negotiated with the Durban Corporation for an alternate site at the corner of Himalaya and Dacca Roads (adjoining the Merebank Shri Parasathie Temple). Thus the Society purchased the land for R2 400.00 and took registration. Plans had to be abandoned and the property was acquired by the Corporation. Fresh negotiations had to be initiated with the Corporation for another site and the Society finally settled for the site in Burdwan Road after protracted negotiations over about eight years.

Meanwhile the Tamil School was still conducted in the original building in Lake Road, until it was destroyed by fire in 1967.

A Shining Example Of Self Help

During the protracted negotiations with the Durban Corporation the moving spirits and chief spokesmen for the Society were Messrs. MR Moodley and Athie Nadasen, who were mainly responsible for settling on the Burdwan Road property. In order to commence building operations within the prescribed two years, application for a loan was made to a local building Society. Since this was not successful the Society faced the dilemma of finding the money to build. A number of ideas were discussed but all of them were rejected for obvious reasons. One member, Mr. CR Moodaliyar suggested an interest – free loan scheme. This seemed feasible but difficult to implement in practical terms. However with faith and determination this formidable plan was accepted. Chairman Mr. MR Moodley set the lead with a loan of R10 000.00. The touching story behind this spontaneous gesture was that since he did not have ready cash he borrowed the money on interest. But the loan to the Society was free of interest. He said that as head of the organisation he had the moral duty to lead by example. This certainly was an admirable and noble gesture. Treasurer, Mr. Athie Nadasen followed with R10 000.00 and Mr. AM Govender came in with a third sum of R10 000.00. In this way twenty four persons including new members offered loans of amounts ranging from R500.00 to R40 000.00 until R106 500.00 was realized in a short time. It is gratifying to mention that most of those who were approached, readily and willingly accepted to help. One member Mr. Balan Govender who having being inspired by the magnanimous gestures of the initial donors came forward on his own accord with a sum of R6 000.00. It must be recorded here that this type of spontaneity from many people was due largely to the confidence, faith and trust that the leaders like Messrs, MR Moodley and Athie Nadasen Odayar generated. As soon as plans drawn by the experienced architects Messrs Tollman and Partners were ready and approved, a prayer service was held on the site on 19 June 1977. The builders then moved on to the site. Five days later at a solemn and auspicious function Mr. Athie Nadasen Odayar laid the foundation stone for the building. It was completed and paid for in nine months. Mr. Athie Nadasen Odayar advanced another R10 000.00 to purchase chairs; following in the philanthropic tradition of his late father he met all the Society’s financial shortfalls. He took control and supervised the building of the dining hall sacrificing a great deal of his profitable business time. In all he had advanced a loan of R40 000.00. All loans were duly repaid in accordance with the promises made. The Merebank Tamil School Society was fortunate to have dedicated and honourable members with noble leaders at the helm.

Development And Fruition

From April 1978 the Hall was ready and let out for weddings and social and cultural functions. But the constant need to generate funds for proper maintenance, staff, the Tamil School and other planned projects was obvious. The Society attempted to present films but the response unfortunately, was not encouraging and therefore abandoned. Overhead expenditure for electricity, water supply, telephone and administration were mounting. A sign writer who was approached to erect the “MTSS” sign on the roof saw the premises and was impressed enough to hire it for his wedding. So his was the very first wedding in the hall undertaken by the Society. This wedding provided the cue to the officials who then undertook to organize and conduct them on behalf of the contracting parties. Initially catering proved a major problem because of lack of proper dining hall and kitchen this was well attended to. The officials of the Society undertake to be present at weddings and help, purely from the point of view of “Service to the community”. Through experience gained at these weddings the Society has been able to streamline all its facilities and services. A “package deal” is offered where all the main overall arrangements are made. Meals are prepared and served. A band of dedicated men and women sacrifice their weekends to serve the community by helping at the weddings. This is appreciated very much. Numerous families are making use of the facilities offered. It must be emphasized that weddings are undertaken, on the basis of helping the community’s needs. Officials are prepared to help and advise parties concerned as far as possible. The dignity of the function and the satisfaction of all the guests and the happiness of the marrying couples and their families concern the Society very much. The society on the other hand is happy to record that it enjoys maximum co-operation from members of the community. The Hall is also a popular venue for cultural projects, shows, dramas, meetings and social welfare projects.

The School’s Larger Aims And Objectives

The Tamil school aims to promote and preserve the Tamil language, culture and religion through its many programmes of teaching the language, heritage, dance, music and empowerment programs.

MTSS’s Mission And Vision

To be the pioneering centre of excellence for the promotion and propagation of Tamil language and culture to the youth of South Africa.

The Challenges The School Faces

Despite more than 50% of the South African Indian Community being Tamil, the language is not spoken as much as it should be. Increasing western influence poses a major threat to the enrolment of new learners as well as attendance of Tamil School students. The lack of awareness of the Tamil classes and various functions that promote Tamil pose a major threat to the future of the Tamil School.