Item 1082 - Address at SADTU Congress, July 2001

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ZA COM MR-S-1082


Address at SADTU Congress, July 2001


  • July 2001 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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SADTU Congress

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  • English

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Thank you very much for the invitation to participate in this very important conference in preparation for the larger international event that follows later this month, as I understand.

Some of you might have noticed that I spent yesterday in reminding the world that I am an old man who comes from the early part of a previous century. Or more pertinently one who spent most of his life in a previous millennium! That some of the young people, talking about the education of even younger ones, find it fitting to invite me to address them probably says more about their curiosity to see someone of such an age than anything else. Nonetheless, I deeply appreciate the honour.

That the invitation comes from our local teachers' trade union, the South African Democratic Teachers Union, carries added significance for me. It was my privilege and honour to be the guest speaker at the launch of SADTU in 1990. To observe them playing this important role of hosting sister unions from all over our continent in preparation for the international conference gives me reason to believe that the faith in them was not misplaced.

The launch of SADTU was the start of a historical process that unified more than twenty teacher organisations that were racially and ethnically divided into one single non-racial and non-sexist teacher union that today is one of the key role-players in education in South Africa. That unified voice carries a weight and importance that is much more than the aggregate of its separate constituent parts could ever have been.

The coming together of organisations from different parts of our continent is of similar significance.

There are many extraneous and historical factors that contributed to the marginalisation and underdevelopment of Africa. These are well known to all of us and do not need rehashing for such an august and informed professional gathering. What characterises current discussions and deliberations on the continent is the recognition and acknowledgement that our own failings and shortcomings helped to create those circumstances. One such deficiency had been our inability to speak with one voice and to act in unity. Too often our own divisions had been part of our undoing on the international stage.

That you meet in this way to prepare for the Education International 2001 World Congress is therefore to be highly commended. It happens at a time when the issues of African unity and of the development of Africa are enjoying high currency and topicality. The African Union has just been established, heralding a new phase in the search for continental co-operation and unity. At the same time, the New Africa Initiative had been launched as a continentally backed plan for the regeneration of Africa politically, socially and economically.

We can truly say that Africans are assertively taking their fate in their own hands, accepting primary responsibility for placing our continent and its countries centre stage in world affairs.

As we have so often stressed with regards to this country, South Africa: the provision of quality education and training at all levels is the most crucial part of any plan for sustainable development. The importance of your role as bodies of educators in the regeneration of our continent cannot be over-estimated.

I had earlier referred to the different age from which my generation and I come. What distinguishes this era above all is the centrality of knowledge and advanced information as prerequisite for progress in all areas of human life. This is indeed the information age. It is through education that people are provided access to those advances in human knowledge.

We are, for better or for worse, part a globalised world. There are numerous drawbacks that the developing world experiences in this process of globalisation. We cannot, however, escape from that global village. It is once more our responsibility to articulate our positions and to work in such manner that we make ourselves felt in that world.

Our continent is unfortunately still too much plagued by wars, violent conflicts and instability. In these conditions of instability ordinary citizens, who have no desire for or part in these conflicts, are the ones that suffer most. Most of them only ask for the opportunity to lead lives of dignity and decency, central part of which is to provide education for their children and charges.

Multilateral bodies all over the continent are involved in searching for lasting peace, good governance and social stability in those countries still experiencing such problems. It is, however, the responsibility of all in society to contribute to that quest and the creation of conditions of social stability. Teacher organisations are important part of civil society and have a responsibility in that regard as well.

These organisations occupy a quite unique position, as they are trade unions as well as professional service bodies. One can understand the tension that situation must at times create. These could, however, be dealt with as creative tensions with the good of the learner and the broader society being paramount.

The transformation process in this country and on the continent depends upon partnerships in all arenas of social life. In education partnership between the unions and government is key. In our conditions we must search for such partnership and co-operation to create the optimal conditions for our schooling youth to share in the pool of human knowledge.

I have no doubt that these would be the objectives with which you will be approaching this preparatory conference. You have the responsibility to be the voice of our continent when the international world discusses issues of critical importance to our future and well-being.

I wish you well in your deliberations and success at the international conference. In a very concrete way, the future of our youth and of our continent is in your hands.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on 17/03/09 by Razia Saleh




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