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Address at the University of Zululand graduation ceremony, 14 May 2005, Minister Naledi Pandor speeches


Address by Naledi Pandor, MP, Minister of Education, at the University of Zululand graduation ceremony

14 May 2005

Chancellor, Deputy President, Jacob Zuma
Vice Chancellor Professor, Rachel Gumbi
Members of Council, Members of Senate
Deans of faculties, staff and students of the university
Alumni and Convocation
Distinguished guests

I am honoured to be part of this ceremony where lecturers, students and parents celebrate the success of those graduating today. It is always a happy occasion for parents to witness their children’s success.

For graduates the achievement of a degree or diploma is the end of a long journey. Given our history of deprivation and exclusion, for many of you attending university and achieving success has been a financial struggle. For others the struggle has been one of coming to terms with a range of academic challenges.

Congratulations on this great achievement! We are proud of you.

This graduation ceremony is special in that it coincides with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Freedom Charter, a document that clearly sets out the socio-political agenda that all of must give life to in our daily action. The clarion call that South Africa “belongs to all who live in it, black and white” is an important and complex challenge for all South Africans, a challenge that demands constant attention to the nature of our transformation and our progress as a society.

The Charter contains a record of the centrality of education in the struggle for liberation, captured in the memorable phrase: “the doors of learning and culture shall be opened”.

As we celebrate 50 years of the Freedom Charter, let us all remember the sacrifices that were made by our nation’s leaders.

A former Africa National Congress (ANC) President and the first African winner of the Nobel Prize, inkosi Albert Luthuli is a son of this province. He could not attend the Congress of the People because he had been banned from attending gatherings. But he sent the following message of inspiration to the Congress of the People:

“Why will this assembly be significant and unique? Its size, I hope, will make it unique. But above all its multi-racial nature and its noble objectives will make it unique, because it will be the first time in the history of our multi-racial nation that its people from all walks of life will meet as equals, irrespective of race, colour and creed, to formulate a Freedom Charter for all people in the country”

Your graduation today is a living testimony to the success of our struggle for non-racism and freedom.

Indeed, you have reason to celebrate because you have achieved what past leaders fought and died for. NgesiZulu sithi ‘imfundo yenu ithelelwe ngegazi lezingwazi (your education has been watered by the blood of the martyrs/heroes).

In a speech delivered at the prize giving ceremony at Oslo University in 1961, Luthuli talked about the struggle for human rights in South Africa. His belief in the concept for human rights was revealed, when he said:

“The true patriots of South Africa ... will be satisfied with nothing less than the fullest democratic rights. In government we will not be satisfied with anything less than direct individual adult suffrage and the right to stand for and be elected to all organs of government. In economic matters we will be satisfied with nothing less than equality of opportunity in every sphere, and the enjoyment by all of those heritages which form the resources of the country which up to now have been appropriated on a racial “white only” basis. In culture we will be satisfied with nothing less than the opening of all doors of learning to non-segregatory institutions on the sole criterion of ability. In the social sphere we will be satisfied with nothing less than the abolition of racial bars”.

These words, said over 40 years ago, are still relevant to contemporary debates in higher education and in society.

We also recall the contribution to education of another great man, who is also a son of this province, Inkosi Langalibalele Dube (uMafukuzela).

Today, one of the monuments to this great educationist, writer, and revolutionary is Ohlange, an educational institution, which began as an industrial school, built by the students themselves.

He did not entertain the spirit of entitlement that induces a state of paralysis as people sit and wait for someone or the authorities to do something for them. John Langalibalele Dube did not wait for his oppressors to open the doors of learning for the children of Natal.

He stood up and mobilised resources. We can learn from his work and embrace the spirit of community interest and independent development that he exhibited.

These are examples that we must refer to constantly, if we are to challenge the post-colonial imprint of dependency that often characterises post-independence societies. It is interesting that despite the writings and teachings of scholars and leaders, such as WEB du Bois, Julius Nyerere, Walter Rodney and Kwame Nkurumah, our African peoples appear trapped in a vortex of seeking action by others and a refusal to become independent crafters of their own destinies. The biggest task that confronts us in a free South Africa is to show the world that we can and we will do for ourselves.

This task of self-definition, self-direction, and focussed attention to transformation poses specific challenges to education and to universities such as this one. I will return to implications in a moment. Suffice it to say for now they are captured in a recent lecture given by a professor of adult education at the University of Limpopo. He reports a villager close to the university saying: “I have always wondered what lay behind those walls and wondered how I could get beyond them”. He said this when graduating from an adult education course he finally accessed as a pensioner.

All of you know that despite the achievements of the education department since 1994, access to education continues to be a challenge for government.

The best proof that we have rid ourselves of the legacy of Apartheid and oppression will be provided by the certainty that every person in South Africa can realise their fullest potential through education.

Allow me to briefly reflect on higher education. We are progressively achieving the objectives we set out in the national plan for higher education.

The national plan “provides an opportunity and challenge to chart a path that locates the higher education system as a key contributor to the reconstruction and development of South African society.”

Consistent with the aspirations of the Freedom Charter, the national plan aims to widen access, to produce graduates with modern skills and competencies and to ensure diversity in the institutional landscape of the higher education system.

That the doors of learning have been opened to our people is evident in the dramatic increase in the enrolment of black students and women in higher education institutions.

In our endeavours to widen access to poor but able students, the government increased the National Student Financial Aid Scheme budget from R20 million in 1994 to R1.2 billion in 2005.

In spite of the resources that the government continues to invest in poor but able students, we are painfully aware that financial aid will be frittered away if recipients do not graduate.

We have directed our attention to encouraging higher education institutions to put in place academic development programmes that will assist the sector in increasing student success.

Alongside access and throughput there are several fundamental focal points that require determined attention.

No society or institution can be blind to socio-economic issues that affect its focus and functioning.

One issue that is constantly asserted is the demand for the acceleration of education transformation. By this I mean the transformation that equips students with the skills necessary to fully participate in the economic life of our country; the transformation that addresses relevance and context while fundamentally locating our students in Africa and in the global context in which we operate; and the transformation that shows that higher education institutions are fully responsive.

This implies a close examination of our programmes and curricula. Some of our institutions imagine they are on another continent; few acknowledge our indigenous languages; and even fewer teach and focus on our history.

We are keen to train more teachers in our universities. But what pedagogy of transformation will drive their teaching practice? Will they offer quality education to all our children or will they perpetuate the moribund philosophy of fundamental pedagogies and remain stuck in the rut of apartheid education?

I am hoping for much more from our institutions. I am banking on them to put South Africa first, to place transformation at the heart of the education process.

I am aware the university leadership has tried to pursue a more positive agenda and I congratulate them on this. The leadership at this university is striving for positive change and we support such efforts.

In conclusion, allow me to say that government is committed to widening access to higher education. We will do this on a well-planned basis that ensures we succeed in your interest.

My warmest congratulations to you all; now go out of here and work tirelessly for project South Africa.

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Written By: Administrator Account
Date Posted: 6/30/2008
Number of Views: 778

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