DURBAN: JUNE 27, 2002

I welcome the opportunity to express my support for the commendable initiative of the Chicago State University to develop a programme of educational exchange with three of South Africa’s educational institutions; the University of Zululand, Mangosuthu Technikon and Umlazi Technical College. At the outset, I wish to thank Dr Elnora Daniel and Dr Adama Conteh for the leadership they have given in this initiative. I trust that the workshop which has preceded this evening’s dinner has delivered the anticipated results and met the expectations of all the team members. As the workshop draws to a close, it is an honour for me to congratulate everyone involved in this programme, and to speak on the value of education as the instrument of liberation.

As an African leader in Africa, I must express my excitement and gratitude for the way African people in diaspora, are doing as much as our sisters here are doing for their own people on the continent of Mother Africa, from which all of us spring. When the giant of Africa is at this very moment trying to rise to take her place amongst other continents, it is to me a source of inspiration to see the involvement of outstanding daughters of Africa such as Dr Elnora Daniel and the former First Lady of Sierra Leone, Dr Adama Conteh, in the forefront of this important initiative.

"Education for liberation" is a well-known slogan in KwaZulu Natal. It is the slogan which I myself, as the then Chief Minister of the erstwhile KwaZulu Government, declared and spread through the mouths of thousands upon thousands of oppressed South Africans during the days of apartheid. It is a message I still carry today, believing that knowledge, skills training and human development are the essential instruments through which we may finally be free to achieve health, security and prosperity in South Africa. Education is the instrument of liberation. The history of our country has given evidence of this truth.

I take personal pleasure in this programme of the Chicago State University due to my longstanding friendship with the Government and the people of the United States. For many years, I have maintained a dialogue with academia, students, businessmen and professionals in every field, and have come to appreciate the value which the American experience has to offer my own country. I have always supported exchanges between our two countries, whether cultural, economic or educational. I take pride also in what South Africans have to offer, which is often a lesson in determination, courage and tenacity.

I believe that South Africa’s soil is yet to birth some of the brightest young minds of the next generation. There is nothing backward about our people, but there is much we may benefit from learning.

It has been encouraging therefore to receive reports from the past few days of this workshop, bearing testimony to the initial success of the programme. I trust that the participating students and faculty have received the full benefit of the contributions of funding, time, effort, initiative and goodwill which has made this programme a success. In gathering to share experiences and to collegially determine how the programme may be adjusted to ensure continually increasing benefit, the students, faculty, programme leaders and stakeholders in the various fields are forging an invaluable opportunity for future participants.

As a lifelong champion of education, I am acutely aware of the importance of programmes like this. Throughout my career in politics and public life, I have advocated the broadening of experience and exposure for all South Africans. I believe that man may only grow beyond his present limitations when he is able to reach out of his present surroundings and experience what is different, foreign or new. We live in an age of rapidly changing paradigms. What we knew yesterday becomes obsolete today. It is a constant coming out of the shell. It is a constant epiphany of new realisation. For many of those who participate in this programme, its greatest value will be that of being exposed to completely different realities to the one in which they were born and raised.

In the case of this exchange programme, the participants have benefited not only from experiencing new surroundings and different cultural lifestyles, but from techniques, training, approaches and information unavailable at their own campus. Effectively, this programme offers a holistic learning experience which develops skills and capacity while also developing the character of each participant.

Perhaps the greatest value of this programme, however, lies in the long-term result, as participants return and implement their knowledge and experience within their own communities. I must congratulate the team of Chicago State University for their insightful selection of fields for exchange. In South Africa, issues of health, security and prosperity demand our attention at every level of society. The HIV/AIDS crisis demands that we train sufficient nurses to carry the burden of an extremely large HIV/AIDS population. We are fighting the battle against the spread of this disease from every possible angle, but ultimately we must be able to take care of and treat those who are already suffering, and anticipate that there will still be many more sufferers requiring medical treatment before the end of this crisis.

I am appreciative of the valuable research undertaken by Dr Patricia Sloane in respect of this issue. Having understood the needs and circumstances in our Durban hospitals, Dr Sloane equipped the programme to focus on the skills needed to meet the realities our nurses face each day. I trust that the experience gained by the two University of Zululand students at Chicago State University will enable them to assist in the development of more effective techniques to engage the challenge of treating the many HIV/AIDS sufferers in this Province. Here once again education has become a tool of liberation. Greater knowledge and greater skills will free our nurses to attend to more patients, more effectively, and the patients themselves may be freed from undue suffering.

The programme’s intention to open exchange opportunities for teaching staff in the field of criminal justice and law enforcement has left a particularly deep impression on me. I am aware of the funding provided by the Umlazi branch of the South African Police Services to the University of Zululand for the development of programmes focusing on basic administrative skills required in policing. I am also aware of the urgent need in KwaZulu Natal for dedicated policemen and women who have the training not merely to apprehend a criminal, but to complete the process by which justice is finally served. Criminality is a serious threat in South Africa. Securing the rule of law demands that every link in the system of justice be properly educated and trained to effectively fulfil its mandate. I hope that in the future this programme of exchange may find itself in a position to place emphasis on the field of law enforcement.

The exchange and interaction of the participating institutions in the field of global business is a valuable initiative in the present climate of our country. Entrepreneurship is one of our great economic pillars. The world is changing and we must be part of that change. For the first time in mankind’s history, cultures, peoples, nations and communities are coming together in a global village. It is happening here and it is happening now. It is not happening at the initiative of a conquering power or because of the actions of a demented tyrant with ambitions of world domination. It is happening at the instance of a multitude of people and interests moved by the forces of freedom. We must ensure that we empower our own people within our own country to become part of that great phenomenon which is now known as globalization.

Globalization is not the making of any government. It is happening in spite of what any government may wish. Indeed, it is happening against the will of many governments. It is the power of consumers and opinion-makers which is making it all happen. A process has begun that no government can plan or direct. Our responsibility is that of empowering South African citizens to fully participate in it. Exchange programmes such as this one are extremely important to achieve such an end.

As we celebrate the success of this programme of exchange, it would be remiss not to mention with due gratitude the role of the United States Agency for International Development. There are many remarkable things about the US Government which are not fully appreciated by people around the world. There are countless programmes that the Government of the United States has constantly enabled to happen, around the world and in our country. They represent a stream of aid and assistance which flows out of the United States in a million ripples. It is remarkable that none of this assistance has ever ceased, even when the United States has been affected by great economic crisis, or even during its engagement in the war on terror. Programmes may change, but the American attitude to give and assist throughout the world has not changed. On an occasion such as this, it is incumbent upon us to acknowledge this and express our gratitude.

We must express our gratitude not only for what this assistance means, but also for what it stands for. It undoubtedly means that there is recognition that the world is a global place, that we all share responsibility for making it work at its best and redressing its internal imbalances and injustices. However, it also stands to signify the American optimism and confidence that seeds planted in foreign soils are able to germinate into valuable outcomes. Time and again the American Government has been confronted by many programmes which have failed their objectives or could not show immediate and tangible results. However, those programmes were not terminated, due to a faith in the intangible value that exchange programmes bring about.

I hope that one of such intangibles will be that of infusing a greater measure of the American spirit into the life and social dynamics of South Africa. Those who will be visiting the United States and those who have already done so, are not only South Africa’s ambassadors of goodwill abroad, but also the conveyors of American optimism and ways of life into their own communities here. The greatest portion of what they have learned is embodied and retained in how they have changed and how they have grown. First and foremost, exchange programmes, especially in the United States, offer the opportunity for great personal growth. One need not fear changing, for that is what growth is all about.

I have noticed how many of those who go to the United States come back radically changed. They are more direct, more efficient, more capable and, in the final analysis, they are more their true selves. It is the blossoming of one’s own God-given potentials in an environment of freedom which stimulates individual growth. We have much to learn from those who have undertaken this personal journey and it is their responsibility to share their experience with all of us so that within our communities things may also change for the better.

In respect of those who have come here to South Africa as students or educators, I am sure they too have learned a great deal and that their own learning has been part of their human growth. I would not have the presumption to guess what our country may have contributed to teaching them. Nonetheless, I hope that they will take home with them the vision of a country committed to grow and improve on its present conditions. Our problems are real. The suffering of our people is real. The challenges confronting our people on a daily basis are real. In our country, life has a measure of intensity and a taste of reality which may not be common to developed areas of the world.

Yet our dreams are equally real, as is our tenacity to pursue them. Our dreams are not different from those which once characterised the fears and aspirations of the American pilgrims, or those who sought new fortunes when seeking a new frontier in the far West of the American continent. However, the realisation of our dreams and our very capacity to dream with an intensity which may enable us to make them a reality, are held back by the legacy of past tragedies and by the present sense of impotence and despair.

The past overshadows the dreams of the future. Our present afflictions project a heavy burden on all of us as we are confronted on a daily basis by the inadequacy of our actions. At times, we in government have the feeling that the more we do to redress present social imbalances and past injustices, the more remains to be done. We do not have the privilege early Americans did of starting from scratch. We need to deal with the legacy of the past before we can seize the promises of our future. The most important aspect of such legacy is that of ensuring that all our people are freed from the shackles of ignorance for lack of education, knowledge and exposure.

I am always reminded of the platonic myth of the cave where people are born in shackles and forced to watch shadows on the walls created by the light from outside. They believe the shadows are the reality and it is only when their shackles are broken through the acquisition of knowledge that they can turn around and see how reality is indeed what is happening outside the cave. Each of us undertakes this process of growth and inner transformation during our life’s journey. We as a nation must now embark on a similar journey. This is a very hard and perilous journey. It is more difficult to change a nation and promote its growth than it is for an individual to undertake the same process.

As we convene on an occasion such as this, we are all agents of change and, as such, we must accept that change is often difficult and not always welcome. There is a natural feature in human nature which resists change and tends to conserve what is known and familiar rather than exchange it for the unsettling features of the unknown. As agents of change, our primary responsibility is to infuse part of the American optimism that tomorrow is going to be better than today, and that therefore the old is bad because the new is going to be better.

The fortunes of a nation are forged by the moral fortitude, the optimism, the tenacity and the initiative of its people. I have been a longstanding friend of the Republic of Taiwan and I have seen how originally ill-equipped and poorly educated people stranded on an island with no natural resources built their future by placing emphasis on education and change. They accepted the journey which would lead them to become profoundly different from what they were when they started, with no initial awareness of the final destination.

I hope that the whole of South Africa as a nation will one day adopt the theme of education for liberation as its long-term vision and manifesto. True liberation will only come when all our people are free from the yoke of ignorance, bigotry, superstition and lack of education. Today, we have made an important albeit small step in that direction. It is our responsibility to continue to move in that direction to ensure that the message which rises from this workshop resounds beyond its originally intended parameters. In exchanging their experiences, the participants are sending a message which, in my opinion, has relevance for the whole of our country. Let us learn more, let us change as we learn and let us continue to learn, learn and learn so that we can grow into a nation of economic prosperity and social stability which my generation has so often envisaged in its post-liberation dreams.