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Address at the launch of the Department of Education’s freedom charter campaign, 5 May 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches

 

Address by the Minister of Education, Ms Naledi Pandor, MP, at the launch of the Department of Education’s freedom charter campaign, Pretoria

05 May 2005

Distinguished guests
Comrades and friends
Ladies and gentlemen

As you will have seen, parts of Sol Plaatje House have started to look like an art gallery. This exhibition – which I find stunning – launches the Department’s campaign to mark the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Charter.

Marking the 50th anniversary of the Charter in this fashion allows us to teach our learners about the importance of the Charter, about its content, and about its continued relevance today. It was and is an important guide to where we have come from and where we have chosen to go.
It began:
We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:
that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people;
that our people have been robbed of their birthright to land, liberty and peace by a form of government founded on injustice and inequality;
that our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities;
that only a democratic state, based on the will of all the people, can secure to all their birthright without distinction of colour, race, sex or belief;

And therefore, we, the people of South Africa, black and white together equals, countrymen and brothers adopt this Freedom Charter;

And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.

The freedom charter was adopted at the congress of the people held at Kliptown fifty years ago and ever since it has provided South Africa with a blueprint of the sort of society in which all of us should live. The charter encapsulated the principles and values that motivated successive generations of democrats in the struggle for freedom.

The Congress of the People that adopted the freedom charter captured the popular imagination of the people at the time.

In the words of Chief Luthuli, “Nothing in the history of the liberation movement in South Africa quite caught the popular imagination as this (the Charter) did… Even remote rural areas were aware of the significance of what was going on”.

The charter rejected all forms of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion or creed.

The challenge that we continue to face today is to translate the vision of the freedom charter into reality.

When Es’kia Mphalele read the education clause - “The doors of learning and culture shall be opened” - at the Congress of the People, he probably did not realise that he was articulating the agenda and vision for all future education ministers of a democratic South Africa.

We have decided to celebrate this year under the theme “Opening the doors of learning and culture through a quality education for all.”

We aim to mark this important occasion on our political calendar by focusing on our achievements of the past ten years and the extent to which we have been able to open the doors of learning and culture.

We want to celebrate our liberation and the creation of a non-racial, united, and non-discriminatory education system in South Africa.

But this occasion also provides us with the opportunity to take stock of where we are now and where we would like to be in the future. It provides us with the space to re-dedicate ourselves to providing access to quality education for all, as is so vividly captured in the Charter.

South Africa has made great strides in the area of education transformation. Access statistics at all levels point to a widening of education opportunities for all South Africans. Increased access for girls at all levels of the system is particularly heartening. Our teachers have improved their skills and are the key to the quality of education for all.

There are many objectives that continue to require rigorous attention. We do not as yet have free compulsory education. In this regard we have not managed to live up to the spirit and intention of the Freedom Charter, but it is an issue that we are addressing. The pursuit of access for all must be linked to a commitment to ensure that education policy and practice creates conditions for quality learning and teaching.

Our learners’ artwork and literary engagements today bear testimony to our commitment to the creative arts.

These wonderful creative pieces provide a glimpse into the worlds and educational experiences of young people throughout the education system.

They reflect the struggles, the aspirations, and the hopes of learners from the rural villages of Mpumalanga and Limpopo to the urban centres of Gauteng and the Western Cape.

I invite you to engage with this exhibition not only in terms of the extraordinary historic event it commemorates but also in terms of the perceptions of ‘ordinary’ learners in schools.

Through their comments - in visual artworks or creative writing - on issues of gender and racism, or their celebration of our African cultural heritage, we are drawn into a dialogue with the ten demands of the freedom charter in terms of the present.

You see the demands reflected in the banners around you, and also in the other works displayed. When they speak of freedom - or point to the lack of it – the youngest of learners help articulate a South African democracy.

The artworks were obtained through the national heritage competitions, competitions that marked the World Conference on Racism, artwork of learners who participated in a Girls in Education Movement camp and ten pieces provided by the Development Bank of South Africa through a joint venture with the Department of Education. The exhibition also includes original quotes from learners’ written work submitted for the above competitions.

The exhibition highlights some of the challenges that we continue to face in education. Some artworks were drawn or painted on high quality materials, whilst others are drawn on no more than a flimsy scrap of paper with pencil crayons.

The works are powerful and original and reflect the lived educational realities of the diverse learners in our system.

But they also provide wonderful expressions of the extent to which we have been able to open the doors of learning and culture, and the degree to which we have been able to transform the apartheid education system.

A photographic exhibition that accompanies the learners’ art captures the remarkable story of the development of the freedom charter.

It highlights the role of ordinary citizens in the formulation of the charter and how the charter has informed the development and trajectory of the national liberation struggle ever since.

You might like to share your thoughts on the same subject in response to the works on exhibition, both on the ground floor and the ninth floor, with the ten learners from Pretoria Boys High and Girls’ High who are hosting this event with me today.

On the occasion of the ANC national consultative conference in 1995, the then Deputy President Thabo Mbeki noted that: “Any form of construction needs both the architect and the bricklayer. It needs both the act of conception and that of building, the act of designing and the act of putting one brick upon the other.”

The freedom charter provided us with the design; it is up to us to build the house so that all our children can enjoy quality education.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 597

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