The Chancellor of the Adams College of Education, Mr Mthembu; the Acting Rector, Mr SG Mtshali; the Rev BK Dludla; members of staff, distinguished guests and granduandi. When I received the Acting Rector's invitation that I should come here today as an alumnus of Adams College as a guest speaker, I could not decline. I spent four important years of my formative years as a student here at Adams College. Whatever good there may be in me can only be the result of the good foundation that was laid so well when I was a student here for four years.

I was of course a student in the High School. Dr Edgar Brookes, a Senator representing the interests of black people of this Province in Parliament, was then our Principal. Dr Donald Mtimkulu was our Headmaster in the High School. The training college was then called the Normal College, but I do not know why it was called that, and the Principal of the College of Education was Mr Robbins Guma. Adams College was unique because even though the ideology of apartheid had not yet appeared on the scene, it was quite significant that black teachers like these were heading multi-racial staffs. The very first Headmaster of the High School had been Professor Zacchariah Keodireng Matthews, whom I later met at Fort Hare University as my Professor, who taught me law subjects. He was the father of the present Deputy Minister of Safety and Security, Mr VJ Matthews.

Adams College was a unique institution for many reasons. At that time in the 40's, the College attracted students from Lesotho (then Basutoland), Swaziland, Botswana (then Buchuanaland), Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) and Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia). We also had students from as far afield as Kenya and Uganda. Some of these students became prominent leaders in their own countries, for instance, Dr Joshua Nkomo, became the Deputy President of Zimbabwe. However, I must not be tempted to go much further describing the Adams College which existed then. We had a Theological Seminary and also the Industrial School. There were teachers from the United States and Europe as the College had been founded by American missionaries from the Congregational Church.

When I accepted the invitation to speak here today, my feelings were mixed. There were sweet memories and there were also sad ones when I thought of the changes that have been place here dating back from the time when the apartheid regime tried to destroy Adams College as we had known it during our time as students here. This was for no rhyme or reason, except merely to implement their evil ideology of apartheid.

My heart swells with pride and sadness as I stand to address the last class of graduating teachers of my own school, the Adams College of Education. Since its inception in 1902, this college has stood on the legs which I have described above, the one being that of a high school where I received my early education and from which I matriculated in 1947, and the other being a teacher training component which has steadily brought forth competent and dedicated teachers for 97 years. Today, we are witnessing a moment of equal sadness and celebration. As we congratulate the teachers receiving their diplomas today, we are also bidding farewell to this long-standing second leg of the Adams College of Education. Teacher training here is coming to an end.

As the cycle of time marches ever onward, many things change. The tremendous changes we are seeing within South Africa are the effect of a history which has unfolded according to the eternal dialectic, by which the force of change is set against prevailing untenable circumstances. For our country, this has been seen in the collapse of apartheid which gave way under the steady demand for democracy, freedom, equality and justice. Yet, as we move further away from the legacy of segregation and inequality, we must face the inevitable need to restructure and rearrange the infrastructure, as a response to the new era in our country. The phasing out of the teacher training component of Adams College is one result of this restructuring and may be seen to mark the end of another chapter of the apartheid legacy.

On March 31st this year, the teacher training component of Adams College closed. By the end of 2000, countless other teacher training colleges across South Africa will have been phased out. This decision of the Department of Education is based on the historical fact that these colleges were built during apartheid, when segregation required that one college be established to train white teachers, another for Indian teachers, and yet another for black teachers. Today, each of these colleges graduates teachers of all races and we are thus facing an over-supply of teachers. As a result, many trained teachers are struggling to find employment. Indeed, most who completed their diplomas as far back as 1997 are not yet employed. This reality casts a dark shadow on this auspicious occasion when we should all be jubilant.

I am saddened by this fact, for I know that we have not yet reached our goal of educating all our children. Thousands of South Africans remain under the yoke of ignorance for lack of education, training, experience and exposure. When we achieved political liberation in 1994, our dream was to see liberation in every area of the human soul. We hoped that the words of Ghana’s President Kwame Nkrumah would be true when he said "Seek ye first political freedom and everything else shall be added unto you". However, I knew that the so-called South African miracle would be no miracle at all. It knew it would be a long, hard and uphill road which we would need to walk with unmatched courage and dedication to fulfil the dream of genuine liberation for all our people. Sadly, all my predictions have been fulfilled.

My commitment to achieving genuine liberation in South Africa is not a new one since 1994. My entire life’s career has been dedicated to this task. For this reason, I have always worked determinedly to see communities uplifted, our economy strengthened, our justice system respected, our government held accountable and the education of South Africans given priority. Education has been at the top of my agenda throughout my political career. I have been at the forefront of the fight to educate our people for as long as I can remember. I recall, for instance, in 1964 when I opened the conference of the Natal African Teachers Union at Nqutu in Zululand. On that occasion, I pointed out the appalling disparities between government spending on white and black students. I also called for the vast resources spent on armaments to be diverted to education. This was as true then as it is now 25 years later. It is sad that even our political emancipation has not made much difference and there is no prospect that this will change within the foreseeable future.

This was not the only time that thoughts of conflict compromised the priority of education in the minds of some. When certain components of the liberation struggle turned to armed conflict as the new route of political action, young people were recruited as liberation soldiers, fed with the lie that bloodshed, chaos and murder could bring democracy. At that time, the slogan of propaganda which echoed throughout our communities was "Liberation now, education later". The creation of that slogan was a terrible, terrible mistake, the results of which I knew would haunt us for years after liberation was achieved. I feared that we would be left with an army of young people unskilled and untrained for anything but violence and lawlessness. These would be our desperately needed work-force who would have to build a new South Africa.

It was for that reason that I came against the slogan of the proponents of the armed struggle with the greater truth of "Education for liberation". I knew that a new country would require new citizens who understood how to operate in a liberated, democratic and dynamic South Africa. Today, we are far ahead of other countries in Africa in the technological race, and we have the potential to match pace with richer and more advanced countries of the world. In this way, South Africa can at last become internationally competitive and we can grow our economy to the point where economic parity and equality become a possibility, rather than a mere vision. To achieve this, we need to train our people and ensure that education becomes the first priority at every level of South African society.

The rising criminality we face today is also the product of giving young people guns instead of books, stones rather than truth. The armed struggle took its toll on our future. Although I spoke loudly against it, although I warned of its consequences, I was not heeded and my name was slandered to silence my voice. As my long-time friends at Adams College will know, that did not work. Throughout the liberation struggle I vociferously remained true to the foundational principles which gave rise to our struggle. Passive resistance, non-violence and maintaining the high moral ground was our original plan. It was a good plan, set out by men like the Mahatma Gandhi, who was assassinated the year after my graduation from this college, and my mentor, Chief Albert Lutuli, later President-General of the African National Congress, who was educated at Adams College and taught there for 15 years.

Indeed, Adams College of Education has remained at the hub of South Africa’s political history. The year I entered this college, in 1944, some youngsters, led by a young man from this district of Mbumbulu in the person of Anton Muziwakhe Lembede, founded the ANC Youth League. He was joined by other youngsters, namely, Oliver Tambo, Jordan Ngubane, Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, who all participated in the founding of the African National Congress Youth League. In the year following my matriculation from Adams College, Mr Godfrey Pitje and Mr Robert Sobukwe, who was later to found the Pan Africanist Congress, established a branch of the ANC Youth League at the University of Fort Hare. It was that same year that the government began to apply apartheid policies. Today, Adams College is again in the thick of our unfolding history. The occasion of this award ceremony is made historic by the fact that the graduates before us will be the last of 97 years worth of teachers to be trained at Adams College of Education. Therefore, as I congratulate you as a distinguished class, I speak into the heart of each one of you when I say good luck and Godspeed.

The road we are on is still long and uphill and hard. We are yet to achieve the genuine liberation we have sought year after year after year. Our struggle continues for as long as our children lack the education and training to grasp the opportunities opening before them. Our children need a guide and a mentor to navigate the technological tempest of the future, just as my generation did when we took on our fight to topple apartheid. We have much to teach and much to learn. Isn’t it ironic that we have too many teachers in a country where so many need teaching?

Sadly, the vast social and economic difficulties we face have overshadowed the old truth that teaching is as much a calling as medicine or law or theology. A teacher is not merely someone who conveys cold facts from a book into the heads of children. A teacher is a motivator and an encourager. A teacher opens the world to children and gives them the tools to navigate their way in it. A teacher teaches students to want to learn, to thirst after knowledge and to seek new and better ways to do things. Surely, teachers are the custodians of our future, helping us to walk through the door of opportunity and live on the other side. This is the true calling of a teacher and I pray that each one of you carries in your heart the desire to fulfil this destiny.

In dealing with the reality of an over-supply of teachers in South Africa, it is essential that we place the best teachers in the right positions. As with any flooded market, we now have the capacity to choose the most dedicated, the best trained and the most capable teachers for the job. Lackadaisical teachers who care little for working with young people and have entered this field for its long holidays and short work days, will soon wake up with a nasty bump. The teaching market is becoming increasingly more competitive and the job of teaching ever more demanding. This offers a challenge to those who have a true calling to persevere, persevere and persevere. To me, personal excellence cannot be compromised. Those good teachers who persevere to serve, deserve our applause.

As we witness the closing of 97 years of teacher training, I wish to congratulate Adams College of Education on the delivery of a fine service to the communities of KwaZulu Natal. I trust that the sense of pride I feel in speaking about my alma mater today will be the same sentiment which motivates these graduating teachers to promote Adams College as a continuing fine institution. We are by far not seeing the end of an academic legacy. What we are witnessing today is the mere evolution of this college as it walks with South Africa into a new chapter of our history. Adams College deserves our continued support, in remembrance of its exceptional honours roll and in expectation of its continued place among the ranks of South Africa’s great academic institutions. I wish this College a prosperous future, and its last graduating teachers, and those who have taught here, the best of luck. In terms of what was our motto at this College for several decades of its existence - ARISE AND SHINE!


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