Address at the Old Mutual Education Trust 1st Graduation Celebration Dinner by Ms Angie Motshekga, Minister of Basic Education, Emperor’s Palace: 16 July 2010
Programme Director, Mr Melane
CEO of Old Mutual SA, Mr Kuseni Dlamini
President of COSATU, Mr Sidumo Dlamini
President of SADTU, Mr Thobile Ntola
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Congratulations to the graduates! You have indeed made us proud by completing your qualifications in record time, in specialized fields as diverse as accounting, engineering, the humanities, medicine, communications and public relations.
Without your academic achievements surely we would not have had the rare privilege to assemble like royalty in this great palace with so many distinguished guests in our midst.
Your meritorious success has provided confidence to the private sector whose mantra as we well know is ‘the bottom line’. You have indeed shown that investment in education is not a wasted effort or a matter of sheer compliance.
It is a value-add making perfect business sense in a country striving to deliver a better quality of life for all citizens.
We commend the Old Mutual Education Trust for providing this golden opportunity to the 25 deserving students.
Education is central to capacity-building and economic development. It is an essential tool that must help us redress imbalances of the past. Our government has therefore made it the apex priority.
By supporting these graduates, the Old Mutual Education Trust has gone out of its way concretely to advance our overarching goal of rolling back the tide of poverty and underdevelopment for the good of our country, our people and the African continent as a whole.
The Trust’s empowerment of members and dependants of trade unions representing the previously disadvantaged speaks precisely to what we mean when we say ‘education is a societal issue’.
Yes, as government, we have a clear mandate and responsibilities to discharge. But, the education of the masses of our people who have been historically condemned to a state of wretchedness and want by the apartheid system cannot be left to government alone.
The theme of this celebratory dinner is spot on. Indeed empowerment will and must come from education and skills development in general. What we solemnly said in Kliptown in June 1955 in the people’s document – the Freedom Charter – remains true for all times: “The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened!”
By establishing the Old Mutual Education Trust as part of the landmark Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment transaction announced in April 2005, Old Mutual has helped us open “the doors of learning”.
Through this transaction, you have advanced the main aim of Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment which was neatly captured by Tony Balshaw and Jonathan Goldberg in Cracking Broad-Based BEE: Codes and Scorecard Unpacked.
They said its aim is “clearly to promote the achievement of the constitutional rights to equity and equality, as well as to increase the broad-based and effective participation of black people in the economy with the ultimate aim of achieving a high economic growth rate, empowerment and a more equitable income distribution” (2005: 70).
We are most grateful to the Old Mutual Education Trust because the skills it has cultivated in the tradition of a careful sower who plants her seed on fertile ground has maximised career prospects of these graduates whose dreams would not have seen the light of day.
They are empowered even to venture into business and thus participate meaningfully and effectively in the economy.
We believe that the strategic initiative of the Old Mutual Education Trust will help us achieve our development goals. It is an initiative that has given credence to the role of public private partnerships in a country that has chosen the path of a developmental state.
As the Department of Basic Education, we have embarked on a Foundation for Learning programme that is intended to lay solid foundations in literacy and numeracy by empowering teachers better to deal with the developmental phases of the child.
The Old Mutual Education Trust has provided a pool of knowledge and specialised skills from which we can draw so to enhance and enrich the teaching profession.
I therefore encourage the graduates among us to pursue teaching as a profession – if you ask me, a most noble profession for that matter.
We have put in place the Fundza Lushaka Bursary whose allocation will reach R471.9 million in the 2012/2013 financial year.
As we said in our Budget Vote Speech in April (2010), this bursary programme is a lynch-pin of our efforts to improve the quality of beginner teachers in scarce and critical subjects like mathematics and science. We need competent teachers if we are to turn around our education system.
It is this that informs my challenge to the graduates to consciously choose teaching as a career, for the right reasons. ‘We need more teachers, better teachers!’
My message to the graduates is very clear: ‘Put your qualifications to good use for the collective benefit of your people’. With the rest of the world, support Mandela Day to make a difference in the lives of others.
I warmly thank all patriotic business partners for creating opportunities for students to receive workplace experience. Your selfless gesture beyond compliance gives real meaning to tonight’s theme of Empowerment through Education.
Together we can achieve more as we have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt by hosting with the brilliance and honour of a gallant knight the largest event on Earth – the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Part of the legacy of the World Cup hosted on African soil is to broaden access to quality education and to deliver on the targets of Education For All and the Millennium Development Goals related to education.
My last word is that we can achieve our national priorities by working steadfastly as government, business, labour and the rest of civil society in accelerating the transformation agenda of the national democratic state.
I thank you.