OFFICIAL OPENING OF
MAHLABATHINI: JUNE 15, 2001
It is a pleasure for me to officiate on this joyous occasion as we come together to officially open the Sivananda Technical Institute of the Sivananda High Primary School. This has been a project of goodwill from the beginning and I believe we may take great pride in the coming together of people of goodwill to contribute in whatever way they could to making this vision a reality. I must congratulate Mr. SDV Nkosi, the Principal of the Sivananda High Primary School, on seeing this project through since 1997 when this school was chosen to pilot a project of technical training in this region. With the help of the Divine Life Society of South Africa, the sacrifices made by the construction company, the assistance of parents and the support of many community members, the Sivananda Technical Institute has today become a reality.
I have been associated with the Sivananda High Primary School since 1977, when I had the honour of declaring it officially open. Since that time, I have watched it grow from a handful of classrooms into the structure we see today. It warms my heart to see this project showing tangible results and finally fulfilling the potential it held from the very beginning. Therefore, I wish to thank Mr. Nkosi for his kind invitation extended to me on this occasion. I trust that we will share many celebrations of this Sivananda High Primary School in years to come, as the Technical Institute begins to graduate students of excellence and practical ability.
Amongst the various events I attend as a Minister of State and as the leader of my Party, none gives me more satisfaction than those which truly impact, immediately and in the long-term, on the lives of my people. Throughout my career I have attended the opening of many schools, the majority of which, like the Sivananda Technical Institute, were financed mainly through community efforts, and I have witnessed how each time we have taken a step closer to the dream of a genuinely liberated South Africa. The Sivananda Technical Institute furthers this walk today as it offers to the youth of Mahlabathini the chance to receive a sound and practical education.
In praising the development of this project and the culmination of much hard work, I must thank the Divine Life Society of South Africa for its consistent commitment to making this school a reality and for supplying the funding every step of the way. I have been a long-time friend of the Divine Life Society. Indeed, one of my daughters spent some time in the Ashram. It was during my time as Chief Minister of the KwaZulu Government that I met Swami Sahajananda, and I have been engaged in a warm and close dialogue with the Swami for many years since. During this time, I have come to appreciate the fruit of the inspiration which motivates this society. Through the inspiration of Swami Sivananda, the founder of the Divine Life Society, goodwill is translated into tangible efforts, ideals are realised through projects, and philosophy is conveyed in the practice of community development.
Although I come from a different spiritual background, I recognise in the Divine Life Society a tremendous good which contemplates not only the soul, but also the physical well-being of mankind. We share the belief that we are all children of one God and must thus act out of compassion for those who are our brothers and sisters. Such principles have always been part of my own efforts to lead my people by walking side by side with them every day. A true leader should never lose touch with the every day reality of those he leads. A leader and a teacher have the same responsibility to live and work at the level of greatest need. The Divine Life Society enjoys respect among the people of KwaZulu Natal because it is seen to take note of the plight of our people and act according to visible needs. With its help, the Sivananda Technical Institute may now begin meeting the needs of this community through the practical application of teaching.
The Divine Life Society has been meeting needs in this Province for several years and has established itself as a patron of the upliftment of our people. Today’s achievement stands out among those which came before simply because the desperate cry of KwaZulu Natal today is for education, education, education. There is nothing we can achieve if we relegate our people to lives of ignorance, complacency and superstition. Now more than ever, as we attempt to rebuild this Province away from the legacy of the past, our people need to be educated. Historically, KwaZulu Natal has always received the least government funding of all the provinces and we have a severe backlog to deal with. Moreover, throughout the time of apartheid, government spending per learner was ridiculously unequal along racial lines. These are legacies we are still struggling to overcome.
Time and again during the apartheid era, I witnessed the hardship of poverty-stricken communities as they stood together to raise funds to build schools with little or no government assistance. I have never been prouder of my people than when I stood as Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government to open schools built brick by brick with community resources. I look back with pleasure to the moments when I could congratulate and thank the Divine Life Society for the role it has constantly played in building schools and ensuring the education of our young people. Throughout that time, I campaigned under the banner of "education for liberation", and I feel today that we can hold that same banner high and seek the same goal through the same channels.
Today's function was scheduled to take place about a week ago, but it had to be re-scheduled to today because of my other ministerial engagements. I think that it is fortunate that it was postponed. I say fortunate because just by sheer coincidence, we celebrate tomorrow the 16th of June as Youth Day. It was previously known as Soweto Day, the day on which we remembered the Soweto uprisings which took place on the 16th of June 1976. The Soweto uprisings were a result of the intransigence of the leaders of the apartheid regime, Mr. John Vorster who was Prime Minister of South Africa and the Deputy Minister of Bantu Education, Dr Andries Treurnicht. As it happened, we had a meeting with Mr. Vorster, attended also by other leaders of self-governing territories. The Deputy Minister in his wisdom decided to impose Afrikaans on our black schools which fell outside the so-called black areas, as a medium of instruction for half the subjects that black children did.
We tried to warn that if they implement such a decision, there would be a crisis. Our warning was not heeded. I remember that I was personally blamed when the uprisings broke out as having incited the people of Soweto. This was because in March 1976 I held a big rally at the Jabulani Amphitheatre in Soweto. The title of my address was "In this approaching hour of crisis" in which I warned that if there was no change in South Africa, we would soon be overtaken by a catastrophe. There was general anger throughout the country and I could sense that this would erupt into violence if the existence of so much injustice in South Africa was not addressed.
When school-children marched in Soweto protesting against the imposition of Afrikaans on them, they were attacked by the police and some of them, including Hector Petersen, were killed. This caused unrest in Soweto and in many parts of the country. It was at this time that one of the liberation movements came out with the slogan "liberation now, education later." That is when I came out with the slogan "education for liberation." I disagreed with those who tried to exploit the justifiable anger of the children to urge young people to abandon their education. As a result, there was a complete breakdown of the education system in Soweto, and in other parts of the country. Here in this Province, particularly in the area that we controlled which was called KwaZulu, we encouraged children to go to school. Because of this, schools in KwaZulu were stable.
As a result, prominent residents of Soweto, such as Dr Ntatho Motlana, with whom I was a student at the University of Fort Hare, and Mr. Percy Qoboza, who was the Editor of 'The World' newspaper (now 'The Sowetan') appealed to me as the Chief Minister of KwaZulu to make arrangements for their own children to leave Soweto where there was a breakdown of the schooling system, to continue their schooling in KwaZulu. I then arranged with Dr Sibusiso Bhengu, who was the Principal of KwaDlangezwa High School, to take the children of Dr Motlana and Mr Qoboza. Professor Bhengu was then still the founding Secretary-General of Inkatha yeNkululeko yeSizwe / Kgare ya Tokoloho ya Sechaba (the National Liberation Cultural Movement), now Inkatha Freedom Party, of which I was President.
Throughout this dark period of our history, education in KwaZulu schools was not disrupted. We as the government of KwaZulu and as members of Inkatha, saw to it that this happened. That is why we as amaKhosi and as rural communities were able to build schools on the basis that the people raised one Rand and the KwaZulu Government gave a Rand and we built many schools on this Rand for Rand basis. It was during this time that the Reverend Swamiji decided to give us a hand through the Divine Life Society and he gave us the funds to build the Sivananda School. As the people whom the Swami leads in the Divine Life Society are disciples of Swamiji Sivananda, the founder of this important religious group, I decided to name the school after that great saint, Swamiji Sivananda.
It is also a very fortunate coincidence that the Honourable the Premier of the province of KwaZulu Natal, Mr LPHM Mtshali, is here with us today and that he presented me to you. He was then one of my foot soldiers in the area of education, first as a teacher, later a Principal, later an Inspector and finally as my Minister of Education after the departure of the Honourable Dr Oscar Dhlomo who was my Minister of Education after the retirement of the Honourable James Nxumalo. So I have a very important witness in the Premier in telling you as the younger generation about all these things which happened before most of you were even born.
Tomorrow I will be joining His Excellency President Mbeki to celebrate Youth Day with thousands of school-children and other young people in Soweto, where he will lay a wreath at the grave of Hector Petersen, the martyr of the 1976 Soweto uprisings.
Our country is not yet free from the yoke of poverty, unemployment, criminality, disease, ignorance and struggle. It is liberation from these social evils that we seek and the only way to gain ground in the long and uphill road towards freedom, is to educate our people. When we know what life can be, we may choose to reject living in substandard conditions. When we know how to make life better, we can choose to act to make a difference. When we know about our world, we can take our place within in it and not be left behind as everyone else progresses. Through institutes such as the one we are opening today, our youth will be able to acquire skills, basic training and knowledge. In this way we may effectively fight unemployment, and therefore poverty, and therefore criminality, and therefore fear. Where there is no fear, there are no limitations and we will finally truly be free.
I am committed to the standard of education being raised in this Province to the point where KwaZulu Natal will be shown as an example of a place where teachers teach and learners learn. The leadership of KwaZulu Natal is still committed to education first. Nothing has changed in this regard. This is still a struggle we need to engage together, with a spirit of victory to come. Another victory has been secured in our struggle for education with the opening of the Sivananda Technical Institute. It is my hope that this school shall not only teach the youth of this region facts and figures, but also impart the desire to serve which inspires the Divine Life Society.
It is essential that our young people acquire a sense of self-help and self-reliance within the community context. A good thing happens when one individual can raise himself or herself above the present dire standard of living. Yet a miracle takes place when that one can take with them a family, that family a community, and that community a region. Indeed nation building begins with the individual, when the heart is right and the capacity has been established. We will only begin to establish the capacity for social development within individuals when we can teach individuals as much as they are willing to learn.
The thirst for knowledge needs to grow within KwaZulu Natal. It is my firm desire that schools within this Province will begin to teach young people to really think and to desire knowledge. We need to establish a foundation of knowledge about our world and its history. We need to teach social skills and effective communication. We need to impart an understanding of self and others. We need to train according to needs. But above all, we cannot neglect the opportunity to encourage our youth to think. If we are content to raise up a generation disinclined to question authority and analyse their world, we will have raised a tombstone declaring the death of our vision for a better future. There is too great a temptation to give up struggling against the seemingly insurmountable social and economic difficulties we face. South Africa needs a generation of fighters, with fire in their bellies, goodwill in their hearts and tools of knowledge to work with. We have a long way to go to win victory in South Africa. Let the people of goodwill take up the fight.
I have heard it said that one’s attitude determines one’s altitude. I believe this is as true today as it will be tomorrow. Therefore, let us instill in our young people an attitude of perseverance, goodwill, community development, personal excellence and serving. There is no shame in serving one another. Today the Divine Life Society is serving the need of Mahlabathini for educational facilities. In turn, those emerging from the Sivananda Technical Institute will serve their communities by giving back according to their skills, knowledge and capacity. There are so many needs which require to be met. It is encouraging to see people of goodwill stepping in to meet them. I applaud the Divine Life Society and the Sivananda Technical Institute on the success of this project and welcome every future endeavour aimed at serving the well-being of our people.
With these few words I wish to declare the Sivananda Technical Institute officially open. May this be a place of learning that generates benefits for the Mahlabathini region for years to come. The success of this project stands as a testimony to what may be achieved when the people of goodwill set their hearts on making it happen. I trust that we will hear a good report as the Sivananda Technical Institute grows and begins to prosper. I wish this institute everything of the best.
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