Education was once used as a primary tool of oppression and must now be used as a primary tool for liberation.
This was according to former African Union (AU) Commission chairperson and African National Congress (ANC) National Executive Committee member, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Dlamini-Zuma was speaking at Durban University of Technology’s ML Sultan campus on Thursday night to a hall filled to capacity with students and ANC Youth League members and supporters.
To enthusiastic applause, Dlamini-Zuma told the audience that colonisers in South Africa, Africa and on other continents had conquered through “force and ideas”.
“The indigenous people were made to feel inferior [as a result of colonisation]. Part of decolonising ourselves is to believe in ourselves,” she said.
Dlamini-Zuma said that the African continent had a rich history of knowledge and culture, but that it had been destroyed by Apartheid, as had indigenous learning.
Quoting former Apartheid prime minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, she said that education was once used as a tool to “subjugate and oppress”, and that the ANC had, since liberation, maintained that health and education were the vehicles to ensure investment in the country’s population.
“You can have finance, brick and mortar and mineral resources, but you need skilled people to turn all of those resources into wealth,” Dlamini-Zuma said.
“Education is important because it is your right to develop your full potential as a human being, it is needed to transfer the economy through skills and it is the quickest equaliser in dealing with poverty.”
The African continent had decided to work towards a “skills revolution”, and as part of the continent, South Africa was part of the revolution, said the former AU Commission chairperson.
“In this skills revolution, people must be educated at all levels, from artisans to engineers.”
The country could not justify any child being deprived of education because they could not afford to study.
“We need to produce entrepreneurs to grow the economy, but the economy will not grow unless the majority are part of it,” said Dlamini-Zuma, who has been touted as a possible successor to President Jacob Zuma.
South Africa was in need of innovators as Africa flexed its infrastructural and technological ambitions, she said, citing the example of Africa’s ambitions for high-speed rail, which was to be undertaken in Egypt.
“We are at this level now. Africa is ambitious. And we need innovative people and engineers to build those high speed rails.”
Dlamini-Zuma said that in South Africa free education for the poor was necessary, but infrastructure had to expand to accommodate more students.
This was where information technology should be utilised, said Dlamini-Zuma, who has been projected as the ANC Women’s League’s preferred candidate to succeed Zuma as party president.
Dlamini-Zuma is a firm favourite of the ANCYL and was joined on stage by the league’s national secretary general, Njabulo Nzuza, and ANCYL KwaZulu-Natal provincial chairperson, Kwazi Mshengu.
The youth league has been vocal about throwing its weight behind her as the preferred candidate to lead the ANC.