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Address at the launch of the South African Union of Students, 1 April 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches


Address by the Minister of Education, Ms Naledi Pandor, MP, at the launch of the South African Union of Students, Stellenbosch University

1 April 2005

“A Truly National Union”

Deputy President Mlambo-Ngcuka,
President and the executive committee of SAUS,
Vice Chancellors,
Distinguished guests,

The birth of SAUS is a landmark in the history of student formations in our country. I am honoured to have the opportunity to address this gathering, all the more so, because I am aware of its historical significance. SAUS is the first national union of students since the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) was dissolved in the late 1980s.

SAUS has been long in the making. Not because students enjoy taking the long way round but because bringing together two wings of the higher education sector - the universities and the universities of technology – has been an ambitious undertaking. 

It is no easy task to transform the higher education system in any country, but one cast both in a racial mould and also in a deep divide between theoretical and vocational education is an undertaking that has been fraught with difficulties.

The institutional restructuring has resulted in a new higher education sector consisting of 11 universities, 6 universities of technology, and 6 comprehensive institutions that offer both university and university of technology-type programmes. 

The comprehensive is a new institutional typology in our higher education landscape and represents a creative and important contribution to meeting the skills development needs of our country, particularly for vocational and technological-oriented skills.

So this gathering, under the theme “Advancing Student Unity behind a Single Coordinated National Union of Students”, is a very significant gathering indeed.


Students and youth have played a significant role in the liberation struggle in South Africa, often a vanguard role. The resistance against the Bantu Education Act of 1954, and the subsequent measures for the segregation of universities, including protests led by NUSAS, are an important part of the liberation struggle.

Students have pioneered many campaigns and won notable victories through mass action. Many of our leaders in the country trace the beginning of their public activity to participation in student anti-apartheid struggles. 

On this auspicious occasion, we must not forget the legacy of other student organisations, such as AZASO and SASO, which fought for change in South Africa.


I note that the preamble to the constitution of SAUS contains the same principles of democracy, equality and unity as the constitution of our country. 

Your commitment to play your part in building a unified, equitable, non-sexist, non-racial, and democratic education system that is appropriate and responsive to the needs of South Africa, will ensure we are able to build a better life for all.

As a country, we joined the community of nations only in 1994, and began to fully participate in the affairs of our own continent. We are committed to responding to the challenges of the continent, through such initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the African Union, and the Association of African Universities.

As students, you will be faced with similar challenges, including showing solidarity with fellow students in other countries and fighting against xenophobia here at home. I would like warmly to welcome our international guests from the All Africa Students Union and other representatives from SADC member states, from Norway and the United Kingdom.

Closer to home, one of your challenges will be to forge close working relationships with other student organisations in the education sector, particularly the Further Education and Training Colleges. 

The strength of SAUS will be defined by delivering on your programme of action and its relevance to students. In this regard, SAUS must be accountable to students and not any other constituency.

The leadership of SAUS will be expected to maintain and even improve the public image of the student movement. 

The leadership will also be expected to gain the support of the broader society in relation to the transformation of our higher education system.

In implementing your programmes of action, you need to enlist the support of non-governmental organisations, other youth formations, and the leadership of the higher education sector. In order to achieve this goal, SAUS must become a strong professional organisation able to critique and formulate policy. Such strength will enable you to lobby and earn the respect of Government and other stakeholders 

SAUS must also play a pivotal role in enhancing effective management and governance of student organisations. You will be expected to lead by example and uphold high moral and ethical standards with a commitment to service.

Chairperson, in closing,

It is generally recognised that the spread of HIV/AIDS is a serious challenge for the country. All evidence indicates that young people are most affected in our society by the spread of HIV and AIDS. I wish to reiterate the point that I made when addressing the workshop of SRCs in July 2005, that we need to move beyond awareness, and take the initiative. I call on the Union to join hands with my Department and HESA in support the Higher Education Against HIV and AIDS (HEAIDS) programme. 

It is my hope that the Union will play its part to ensure that we achieve our developmental goals as a higher education system and as a country.

My Department will continue to support the Union in its efforts to build an accountable, representative and sustainable structure. 

It is my hope that SAUS will make a significant contribution to the development of future generations of student leaders.

It is also my hope that all of the students here tonight will take up the challenge of building SAUS into the dynamic voice of higher education students in our country.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 951

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