Theme: “Teaching in Freedom, Empowering Teachers”
It gives me pleasure and immense pride to be standing here today and addressing you on this auspicious occasion. We have gathered here today to celebrate the World Teachers’ Day. All of us who went through any education system, we must give teachers our utmost respect and eternal gratitude.
Programme Director; all of us gathered here today, we owe our successes [career wise and otherwise] to our teachers and lecturers. Education is central to the success of a whole range of other human endeavours. Hence, every teacher is always at the coalface of making such human endeavours and dreams a success. Therefore, teaching is arguably the most critical profession in the world. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say teaching is the mother of all professions. In a normative sense, we all know that teaching is a profession, but those who take the plunge and train as teachers are actually answering a higher calling to bring light to the nation. The contribution of teachers to our lives is invaluable and immeasurable.
Our own reconstruction and development efforts as a country, the renaissance of the entire African continent and our successful interaction in the global village, depend largely on the progress we make in educating our population. It is empirical proven that nations that invest and value the profession of teaching in particular and public schooling in general have a greater chance to unlock economical bottlenecks in the whole economic value chain.
To the current crop of teachers, never get deterred by the current challenges exacerbated in part by the deteriorating socio-economic status of many in our society as a result of the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality. We are also aware of the burden that teachers carry as incidents of violence are on the increase, and so are social ills such as substance abuse, bullying, and teenage pregnancies. The psychosocial and economic realities of South Africa demands that schools must become valuable centres of support. The high rates of HIV and tuberculosis infection; crime; orphan-hood; violence and child abuse places ever-increasing demands on teachers. As a result of our special circumstances as a nation, our schools have an extended mandate to act as places of care and support. In this regard, we have ramped up our psychosocial services in all our schools as a priority.
Furthermore, we must redouble our efforts to protect the classroom as a holy grail of teaching and learning. As society we cannot let slip the control of the classroom. It is the only thing we have to change the fortunes of children in our care. We must reclaim it; there are no two ways about it.
Today, I want to make an earnest appeal to the current cohort of learners to join us as we build a winning nation. We can only achieve this if we have an army of academic winners. We must emphasise that education, not political connections, is the key to success. In this regard, teachers hold that key to help unlock the bright future of all our learners.
If you have just heard this and understood me: Thank a teacher. Teachers deserve our eternal respect and recognition.
Programme Director; the World Teachers’ Day gives us the opportunity as a nation to reflect on the contributions, to the national cause, made by teachers every single day. Teachers are pioneers. We must occasionally seek opportunities to pay tribute to the gallant efforts of both the past and current cohort of teachers. The fact that, I am standing here today in front of you means that my teachers did an excellent job.
As we celebrate teachers today, I would like to remind you that education and churches have always been joined at the hip. Various churches including the Roman Catholic Church played a pivotal role in the education of the black child back in the days when successive governments didn’t. It is therefore true that churches have always been a backbone of formal education in this country. Our country continues to benefit immensely from many schools owned and operated by various religious institutions. And, for this we are eternally grateful.
As the World Teachers’ Day theme speaks about teaching in freedom, I would like to bring to your attention that in this year we are also commemorating the centenary of Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo affectionately known to his friends and comrades as O.R..
Programme Director, it‘s no historical coincidence that we celebrate the World Teachers’ Day while invoking the spirit of the late Comrade O.R. Tambo. For Comrade O.R. was also a teacher, a mathematician, a lawyer, a diplomat, and a leader. Amongst many crimes against humanity orchestrated by the Pretoria regime, the most vile and unforgivable one was that it denied the young Tambo his fervent wish to be ordained minister of the church. Despite this hiatus Comrade Tambo emptied himself for the benefit of humanity as a leader of the ANC for almost 30 years. Through both his words and deeds, he became, ‘the crystallisation and personification of what the ANC is’ [and became under his stewardship.]
Programme Director, on behalf of the people of South Africa, it is my pleasure to say we dedicate this year’s World Teachers’ Day in his honour. Comrade O.R as you may well know was the longest serving President of the African National Congress (ANC). However, we dedicate this year’s World Teachers Day to him not because of his exceptional leadership qualities during the darkest years of the anti-apartheid struggle but because he was an outstanding learner, student and a teacher. As you may recall Comrade O.R graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Mathematics and Physics from the Fort Hare University. He then enrolled for a diploma in higher education although he could not complete it after he was expelled for his political activism.
Despite this predicament O.R. went to his alma mater, St Peter's, where he taught Physics and Mathematics for five long years. Later on O.R. completed his post-graduate degree in Law and went to open the first black-owned legal practice in Johannesburg with his friend and fellow comrade one Nelson R. Mandela, our founding father of the new South Africa.
As we celebrate the life and times of Comrade O.R. we must bear in mind that he wouldn’t be satisfied merely with us having achieved freedom and democracy. We have a joint responsibility as political establishment and the church to build a cohesive society. Even in death, Comrade Tambo thought of nothing but the future of his motherland. His epitaph, reads, in his own words: “It is our responsibility to break down barriers of division and create a country where there will be neither Whites nor Blacks, just South Africans, free and united in diversity.”
We appreciate the role played by the Regina Mundi, the largest Roman Catholic Church in South Africa which is located in Rockville (Soweto). Due to the role it played as a place of gathering for the people of Soweto in the years before, during, and after the anti-apartheid struggle, it is often referred to as "the people's church" or "the people's cathedral". These proved to us that churches are faced with a big challenge of ensuring that South Africa remains a better country.
As church members, I urge you to reflect deeper and understand that your faith does not end as an individual call but a call to relook at yourselves and identity if each individual is doing enough to save our country. God calls us to be fellow workers with him so that we can extend his kingdom of justice, goodness, compassion, caring, sharing, laughter, joy and reconciliation. Thus, the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our God.
We respect the role played by Trevor Huddleston who contributed strongly to the evolution of the free democratic South Africa and he developed into a much-loved priest and respected anti-apartheid activist. He fought against the apartheid laws, which were increasingly systematised by the Nationalist government which was voted in by the white electorate in 1948.
To mention again one of our leaders that demonstrated strong leadership traits, let me remind you of Mr. Beyers Naudé who in 1963 founded the Christian Institute of Southern Africa (CI), an ecumenical organization with the aim of fostering reconciliation through interracial dialogue, research, and publications. With the last sermon to his congregation he noted that: "We must show greater loyalty to God than to man". This is a challenge to us today as we are ambassadors of shaping the South African community by prioritizing the importance of good leadership through social cohesion.
Today, as we have gathered in this Catholic Church, I am not certain about where our country and nation will be tomorrow. I do have my own sense of great unease about the direction and future of our motherland. Our country is overrun by pervasive corruption and its by-product, namely the State capture of key State institutions to serve the interest of the rent seekers. Sadly, the State capture predatory elites have found amenable co-conspirators in the private sector. The cancer of corruption both within the public sector as well as private sector is so pervasive that its scale, scope, and complexity are yet to be fully comprehended.
In this regard, only a fully-fledged Commission of Enquiry into State Capture with both investigative capacity and powers of subpoena will rid our country of this cyst.
With your permission Programme Director, given the prevailing sense of impending doom in our nation, the teachings and exemplary leadership qualities of Comrade O.R. are solely missed.
Apart from factionalism within amongst of the ANC, there is a growing social distance between the rulers and ruled. There is a growing chasm between black and white. There is an unsustainable high level of inequality between the rich and poor.
Programme Director; while the fate of the democratic project is largely in the hands of a handful of ANC members, we must not forget that millions more outside the ANC do wish that this great movement of Comrade Oliver Tambo succeeds. That’s the reason that we have over successive elections been given an overwhelming majority to lead the Republic of South Africa.
Therefore, while members of the ANC are busy navel-gazing, we must open up space for the church leaders to speak out and make their voices heard. I have insisted that - we as political leaders must be open to be persuaded by a variety of civil society groupings, the NGOs, prominent South Africans found in academia, churches, business and our international friends and critics. We arrogated ourselves as the ANC the tag of leader of society; it is high time that we behave as such.
Programme Director; in these uncertain times we look to the leadership of the church to provide moral leadership. We need men and women who will put the Republic of South Africa first.
I thank you.