23 September 2021
Education is our Heritage
Chairperson of the Charlotte Mannya Maxeke Institute
Representative from Sport, Arts and Culture
Representative from the Bookery Reading is our Superpower
Representative from Mandela legacy foundation
Ladies and Gentleman
The theme for my input which is education is our heritage is linked to what an important topic, particularly in this age of the knowledge economy. The knowledge economy, which is about our ability as a collective to find solutions for the challenges that society faces by reading and analysing information and packaging it for the betterment of our society.
Today’s theme, is also linked to what Malcolm X once said, when he said “education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”
Indeed, if we want generations to have a better future and create a more just, fair and equal society, we have to prepare for it today through the education we provide for our young people. To this end, the importance of and learning has been recognised since the beginning of time, as a critical component of human evolution and overall development. The Greek Philosopher Plato hence wrote “if a man neglects education, he walks lame to the end of his life.”
During the twentieth century, education, skills and the acquisition of knowledge have become crucial determinants of a person and a nation’s productivity. One can even call the Twentieth Century the “Age of human capital development” in the sense that the primary determinant of a country’s standard of living is how well it succeeds in developing and utilising the skills and knowledge, and furthering the health and educating of the majority of its population.
Without uplifting the black majority in particular and Africans in general through meaningful and robust involvement in their own development, inferiority complexes will remain, and a truly anti-racist, open and democratic society will not emerge effectively in South Africa.
Dr Mamphele Ramphele, also reminds us that “the monumental failure to successfully transform our education system undermines any effort to promote a more equitable society”. Another great leader, President John F Kennedy of the USA once said: “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education”. The human mind is therefore our fundamental resource, for knowledge production, for problem solving, for human capital development and for human evolution.
The most fundamental measure of a decent society is reflected in the quality of life of its children. The commitment to make sure that children have better opportunities than previous generations, to develop their capabilities and performance as human beings is also a key indicator of the values of a successful society.
Over and above the challenges dual pandemics of COVID 19 and Gender Based Violence and femicide, we face additional scourges such as the economic disempowerment of women and most recently, we now have to address the scourge of Teenage Pregnancy, which is alarmingly on the rise. The number of children born to teen mothers in South Africa’s most populated province, Gauteng, has jumped to 60% since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, with Save the Children concerned for the well-being of both young mothers and babies.
Early pregnancy and motherhood in South Africa forces many girls to drop out of school. It traps many in a cycle of poverty, leaving them dependant on public assistance and leaves many stigmatised by society for being teenage mothers or forced into early marriage.
The global pandemic risks being a time of irreversible setback and lost progress for girls in particular and children in general. Unless we act fast and decisively, the impact on girl’s future and our future as a collective, will be devastating.
We are failing to live up to our national system of values at all levels of children’s development path.
If we are not going to act now, we will never have another Charlotte Maxeke. In order for society to produce a million other Charlotte Maxeke, we will have to nurture and socialise our children and girls in particular, to believe that they are valued, loved and respected.
We will have to pursue an education policy that is governed by the principles of democracy, that will ensure active participation by various groups, in particular teachers, parents, workers and students. The education system must also be based upon principles of co-operation, critical thinking and civic responsibility. These aspirations can only be achieved through a culture or reading and education.
Heritage day is not just a showcase of our country’s rich cultural diversity. It is also an opportunity to reflect on whether we as a country with so much abundance of talent and natural resources are in fact able to take care of its children and grow a new nation, endowed by the spirit and ethos of Charlotte Maxeke.
It is an opportunity to introspect and do self-criticism as a nation, as to whether the ideals that many of our leaders sacrificed their lives for are being achieved or at the very least, are being pursued.
The success of this programme will depend on our collective commitment to ensure that every child across every province, district and locality, adopts a culture of reading, so that they too may reap the rewards of a better life than the previous generation. It is only through education that the generational cycle of poverty and inequality can be broken.
I thank You
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