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As a continent we are very fortunate to have mineral and natural resources, but the greatest resource is our people.
Mamphela Ramphele, who now prefers to be referred to as an “active citizen”, addressed Stellenbosch students last week about their important role in fostering the growth of the African continent.
Ramphele was joined by former Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan, the German Ambassador, Horst Freitag, and the executive director of the FW de Klerk Foundation, Dave Steward.
The Africa Forum panel was hosted by the Stellenbosch University Political Science Department and took place in the University’s Endler Hall.
“We need a lot of action in the implementation of ideas and policies that will enable Africa to reach its full potential,” explained the former Agang leader.
“We have one of the youngest population profiles and that means we have a lot of energy and creativity which can be sustained over many years.
“Not every young person needs to go to university, get a degree and then say – what do I do now?
“This is where we can learn from other systems. Not just the Germans, but the Swiss and other countries who are looking at an education training process from the cradle to a career that allows for greater flexibility,” she said.
We need an education system that is inclusive of different talents and personalities.
“We are losing a lot of young people. We have a wastage of human resources because of a system that doesn’t allow for the arts and sports, for example,” explained Ramphele.
“We need a ‘second chance’ programme for those who have dropped out. It is talent that needs to be redirected.”
Students need to acknowledge their pivotal role in the political landscape of the country, and of the continent.
They need to recognise their importance in the political process. This can be done by educating the students.
“Students don’t want to part of the politics of this country. The reality is you are already part of it. You need to use this to shape your country in a positive way,” said Ramphele.
The most influential way students can impact the continent is through the implementation of policies and ideas that will stimulate development.
“You are the majority and you can decide, not only who gets elected, but what kind of paradigm is needed for social developmental growth in this country,” explained Ramphele.
Students can use their position to educate others about the importance of development.
“My generation were the activists, but what are you, who are in a more advantaged position, going to do with your freedom?” Ramphele asked.
Gordhan encouraged students to reflect on the past and ensure that it is not repeated. “History doesn’t walk in a straight line. We need to overcome the contradictions and structures of the past,” he said.
South Africa should act as a catalyst for development in other African countries.
“South Africa has a democratic system, a vibrant civil society and an independent judiciary. You have a remarkable story to tell. Especially for those countries on the continent who are not yet at peace with themselves,” explained Freitag.
“You have the National Development Plan, which is an excellent analysis and vision, which many countries wish they could have,” he further explained.
Gordhan reminded students that they should, however, always remain focused on South Africa’s goals.
“We need to meet our own objectives of unity, diversity and non-racialism,” he said.
This contribution was produced as part of a collaboration between LitNet and the University of Stellenbosch's Department of Journalism in 2014.