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Address at the Ahmed Kathrada memoirs event, 9 June 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches

 

Address by the Minister of Education, Mrs Naledi Pandor, MP, at the Ahmed Kathrada memoirs event, Johannesburg

9 June 2005

Dr I Surve, (CEO Sekunjalo)
Ahmed Kathrada

For those of you who were unable to be with us in Cape Town, let me tell you that Sekunjalo dedicated 1,000 copies of Comrade Kathy’s Memoirs to our schools at an event held at the Waterfront.

We are here for the second leg of the dedication of another 1000 copies to our schools and I have the opportunity to give another speech about books and Comrade Kathy.

This double is a first for me and it is an index of the high regard in which I hold Comrade Kathy and the importance I attach to making his book available to our schoolchildren.

We need to build a reading nation – a nation that is able to read widely for educational purposes and also for pleasure. This means ensuring that children have books in their schools, libraries and other facilities that are linked to reading.

Today few education systems live with our reality of poor reading resources. Changing South Africa and Africa means that we need to take urgent action, because a great deal of our essential character depends on success in this area. Books convey our story, our identity, and our core values. They are a concrete driver of the search for positive social cohesion. The experience of every society is that positive social values are learned and not transmitted intuitively. I hope this book can become part of debates and other forms of critical enquiry in our schools.
 
I think this book, and several others show the humanity and the modesty of not only Comrade Kathy but also of our leaders in the struggle against apartheid; it fits neatly into the overall character of the ANC. It is important that we are not shy about presenting our leaders to our children.
 
Our schoolchildren need to know about the extraordinary courage and the extraordinary self-sacrifice of our leaders, and to develop an appreciation of the principles and objectives that drove their daily actions.
 
I noted only the other day, that our children in school today know little of house arrest, and bannings, of detention without trial; they know too little of the spirit of optimism that the Congress of the People and the adoption of the Freedom Charter created among our people; they probably know nothing of the most famous political trial in our history, the Rivonia trial, and too little about prison life on the Island.
 
For example, Comrade Kathy tells the story of how Madiba’s memoirs came to be written on the Island in what was then an illegal and dangerous act. Through his book we become vicariously a partner in this account of our story. He writes:
 
“Because most of the writing would have to be done at night, Mandela feigned illness and was excused from the daily work schedule. He slept for a few hours while the cellblock was deserted and wrote deep into the night. As a registered student of Afrikaans, Madiba was allowed to subscribe to the popular magazine Huisgenoot, and he made a deal with the night-duty warders. They were not allowed to bring any reading matter to work to pass the time, and were only too glad to borrow Mandela’s magazines in exchange for allowing him to pursue his studies beyond the 11 pm curfew.
 
“Early every morning he would give Walter and me the written pages for comment. The final draft was then transferred to sheets of rice paper by Mac Maharaj and Laloo Chiba in miniscule script … Madiba’s originals were rolled up inside empty Cadbury’s Bourneville Cocoa canisters and buried in the garden.”
(Memoirs, p. 265)
 
Imagine for a moment the range of learning outcomes we could develop on just this extract?
 
Our written history has never been as exciting as this real history of the lives of our leaders.
 
Such is the fortune of being a South African.
 
As I know from my experience of Kathy in Parliament, he is sharp witted, warm and tough; and through the generosity of Sekunjalo many of our school children will now have the opportunity of learning how those qualities were used in his role in our struggle for freedom.
 
I thank you Dr Surve on behalf of the Department of Education, and the children who will read these memoirs, for facilitating the distribution of this book into school libraries.
 
In closing, let me say that we face the twin challenge of getting books into schools and also of writing our stories, the other stories of South Africa. Sekunjalo’s contribution is important and very welcome.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 575

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