It is an honour for me to take this podium once again and speak to the graduands of the Emandleni Youth Training Centre, knowing that this time in our history is one of vast changes and transformation. It is heartening to witness this Centre producing yet another class of well-trained, skilled young people with character, integrity and purpose. The high standards of the Emandleni Youth Training Centre have remained through changes in the political landscape and changes in the perceptions of South Africa. Today, this Training Centre is itself engaged in a process of transformation. Yet I am confident that it will maintain the invaluable role it has fulfilled in this community for so many years, and I am likewise confident that in years to come it will change perceptions in South Africa of what is needed, useful and constructive in building a new country.

I founded this Centre on a vision. That vision remains intact. Whatever changes are made to the name, the emphasis or the internal structure of Emandleni, I trust that the motto printed on the back of the certificates which these graduands receive today, will always be at the heart of Emandleni. It is this foundational principle which has made graduates of Emandleni leaders in their own communities. Today, you are Torchbearers of the spirit of self-reliance. You have looked at the goal and taken steps towards it. You have applied your energy and time to acquire an education which, in many respects, is more relevant and more immediately useful than purely academic training. The skills you have learnt at Emandleni will certainly enable you to better face the challenges of tomorrow.

Equipping young people to face the challenges of the future has become a central theme in the education system of our country. We are aware of the need for rapid technological progress so that South Africa may meet the path of global development, and not be left behind. We are also aware of the need for South Africa to find its own brand and to become economically competitive and active in the global economy. Much emphasis has been placed on developing information technology skills in our schools and universities, so that the next generation will be able to access and harness the benefits of the future. I myself recognise all these concepts as valuable and important to South Africa’s future. Yet I am also a man of practical observation and insight, and I know that the challenges of tomorrow may well overshadow any possible opportunities if we do not also prepare for today.

Today’s South Africa is one in which practical skills are lacking. The training received at the Emandleni Youth Training Centre remains viable specifically because it addresses a real need. As this Training Centre is transformed, we will build on the vision that lies at its very foundation: the vision of self-reliance. It is essential that young people are able to enter immediately into the labour market, both to provide for themselves and to give back to their community. Self-reliance is an extremely important quality within a society in which poverty and need is widespread. With insufficient resources at the national and provincial levels of government, local communities cannot wait inactive for development to be brought in from outside. Development must be generated within communities, started on community initiatives and built on projects involving every willing community member.

I believe the graduands seated here today are equipped to lead the struggle for community development, for you have been taught to take the reins and determine the direction, not merely to walk quietly behind hoping that things will improve. I take pride in the young people emerging from the Emandleni Youth Training Centre, for I see in them a sense of hope which is often lacking in our country’s youth. Your training has been practical. Your education can be of immediate use. Knowing these things, I have continued to take an interest in this Centre, seeing the success it has had in the years past and trusting that it will remain relevant, valuable, and successful, in the future.

My own commitment is to ensure that all segments of our society may more readily recognise and appreciate the training offered in places like the Emandleni Youth Training Centre. On many occasions I have engaged the staff of Emandleni in a dialogue which focuses on extracting the best possible value from this Training Centre for the youth who attend it. I am pleased to have witnessed the dedication and commitment of those who train and educate Emandleni students. I believe the staff of Emandleni may take pride in their work and, once again, in the product of their efforts, this class of graduands of 2001. Throughout the years, the staff here have performed a noble task, giving the example of how an individual contribution may benefit an entire community. They deserve our praise and, on this occasion, we applaud the staff of the Emandleni Youth Training Centre.

However, no matter how dedicated a teacher may be, no matter how high the standards of an institution of learning may be, and no matter how relevant or valuable the training which is offered, unless a student makes a commitment towards learning, nothing will be achieved. I urge the graduating class of 2001 to take to heart the motto of self-reliance, knowing that in our modern world, wrought as it is with social and economic difficulties, there is no easy ride. It will take determination to make a start in your chosen field. It will take courage to meet the obstacles and face the challenges. It will be difficult. Some of you may even fail, initially. But I encourage you to keep trying. Trials build patience, and patience builds character. If one’s character is not strong enough to sustain the vision of one’s heart, the vision will never be fulfilled.

I believe that vision is the lifeblood of personal success. If one can look at a dire situation and see potential rather than disappointment, hope exists. As each of you embarked upon this training experience, you will have known what it was you hoped to achieve, whether it was merely to please one’s family or to establish a foundation on which to build a future of great prosperity. Aiming to fulfil that vision, you have laboured and learned, you have sacrificed and made a commitment to a higher standard of living. I am proud of all that you have done in order to graduate. Today you will know that the achievement is only sweet because the effort has been great.

As you embark upon the journey of self-reliance, I wish every one of you the very best. I encourage you not to place limitations on yourself, but to know that reaching a goal will require more effort and time. You are leaving the Emandleni Youth Training Centre as ambassadors in your own communities, promoting the idea that practical training is essential and valuable to development in South Africa. As leaders in the struggle for community development, I hope that this may be the generation that lays a foundation for the future prosperity of South Africa. If we prepare to meet the needs of today, we will be equipped for the challenges of tomorrow. The Emandleni Youth Training Centre is preparing young people for today. You are the Torchbearers of the spirit of self-reliance. You are building the future of South Africa.

To each young person graduating today, I congratulate you and wish you well.