Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe during the SOMAFCO Prize Initiative ceremony
3 Jun 2011
The Leadership of SOMAFCO Trust,
Sponsors and partners of SOMAFCO Trust,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Students and youth,
Distinguished guests, and
Ladies and gentlemen
It is once again a great honour for me to address the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (SOMAFCO) Prize Initiative, a bold step that seeks to contribute to the development of education in our country through identifying and rewarding excellence in our education system and society in general.
In the year 2010 we gathered to launch this remarkable initiative, during which it was made clear that SOMAFCO Prize Initiative was conceived to help address the many education and related challenges in our country.
Then as now, we welcomed the initiative as a visionary step and a gigantic leap forward at a time when social partnerships for the reconstruction and development of South Africa in all areas are indispensable.
In particular, we commended this initiative because it is cast as part of a larger effort to address South Africa’s education challenges and to drive social cohesion through three guiding principles:
South Africa today needs these three principles: a strategic vision to take us to a better future we all long for, initiative as the driving force of progress in society and collaboration because together we can do better and accomplish much more.
Accordingly, as a first step towards the realisation of this stated vision, we are gathered here today to witness the very first SOMAFCO Prize Initiative ceremony.
Judging by the success of this debut event, one can confidently say that many more Somafco Prize Initiative events are definitely on the way.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Given the considerable responsibilities that SOMAFCO Prize Initiative has assumed in society, perhaps we should first ask, what is SOMAFCO and where does this idea originate?
The Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College was established by the African National Congress (ANC) in 1978 in Mazimbu, Tanzania, with the aim of catering for the educational needs of the children of exiled South Africans.
Despite the difficulties of running a project of this nature SOMAFCO succeeded because it was focus-driven with much store put on the objectives of the education system.
Among its successes as a socio-educational institution was the emergence of a community with an innovative health, agriculture and small business initiative around it.
SOMAFCO was thus symbolic of the desired education system in a post-apartheid South Africa.
These successes were built on the ANC’s long lasting networks with international volunteers who brought in much needed skills to anchor the project in Mazimbu.
These volunteers dedicated their lives to the South African cause and were instrumental in driving SOMAFCOs international programmes which were triggered by the campaign to save Solomon Mahlangu from the apartheid gallows in 1978.
These relationships continue the dynamic cultural and racial diversities that are guided by a common vision for a new South Africa and go further to demonstrate SOMAFCO's continued commitment to international cooperation.
Consequently, the SOMAFCO experience and legacy could not just dissipate.
Inspired by this legacy, a way had to be found to reignite this valuable experience, especially against the background of constructing a new society based on democratic values.
What is notable about SOMAFCO was not only the fact that it survived the tough exile conditions to produce some of the members of the current SOMAFCO Trust but also, it embraced an education system that was conceived to serve as a prototype for education in a democratic South Africa.
Its whole philosophy, underlying value system and attitude to education was a totally different conception to apartheid education system which was designed to deepen social fissures and to disempower a large section of society.
Historically, SOMAFCO also bequeathed us excellence; from the beginning to the end the college showed excellence in its academic and extra-curriculum results.
True to form, the exalted values instilled in its learners are re-asserting themselves in the form of reincarnating this progressive concept that has drawn us together here today.
In other words the idea of Somafco is alive in post-apartheid South Africa, irrespective of whether it is formally called SOMAFCO or not.
Today as we confer these awards, let us recall that the SOMAFCO Trustees could have chosen to re-establish this historic college in the post-apartheid landscape.
Yet this is not the route they selected, understanding that we cannot all drive our development from the same point of vantage.
South Africa is already teeming with schools and initiatives that aim to advance our education system but in many cases lack barest necessities to fulfil their dream.
They thus saw their role being effective in terms of support of these existing initiatives.
The new challenge for these alumni and former community members of SOMAFCO is to enhance the legacy of the college by making sure that it is not only a community of former exiles but that it belongs to all South Africans.
Thus the idea of re-establishing Somafco in the same shape and form as it was in Tanzania became less appealing.
This teaches us that if we are committed to the bigger picture we are more likely to achieve much, especially as we work together with other social partners who want to achieve the same goals.
The lessons we need to draw from this manner of proceedings is that there is much of value from our past experience which we can and must use to advance our vision of better society.
At a time when society is grappling with tendencies of individualism we can learn a great deal from this selfless approach.
This spirit needs to pervade our national psyche, inspiring many other social players to follow this example and find a way of contributing to the development of our education and other spheres of development.
Similarly, in and of itself, SOMAFCO as a historical consciousness must permeate the whole society, from the communities that surround learning institutions to learners and the youth themselves.
It must also dispose us to celebrate excellence, whether in education or any other areas of endeavour.
Today we have come to celebrate the first signs of excellence identified by the Somafco Prize Initiative. In all this award scheme offers three categories with two finalists per category.
The categories are the following:
Early Childhood Development
Nutrition and School Health
Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training
As you can see all three categories are indispensable for the cognitive development of a learner. Early Childhood Development provides foundational learning for society, for if we miss development at this stage in our growth we will never recover.
Equally pivotal, the second category, Nutrition and School Health are necessary conditions for education to take place without interruptions.
As you know learners who learn under healthy and nutritious conditions are able to concentrate and learn with an alert mind. Effective learning presupposes a healthy body and conducive conditions.
Lastly, Vocational and Entrepreneur Training is in truth the future of our nation. Training learners to build up a store of experience and knowledge in the critical field of entrepreneurship is a practice that is sorely needed in South Africa generally.
We are therefore happy to unveil the first batch of winners in these exciting fields of our education system.
I am sure that there will be no losers, if one takes into account the fact that being the six participants stand to benefit in one way or the other from being shortlisted.
It is heartening to note that even before the winner in each category is announced, the six finalists have each automatically won a training course.
The three winners in each category stand a chance of walking away with R50 000. I am certain they will use this money to further advance their aims in their particular fields, and that a virtuous cycle will result.
Lastly, let me also take this opportunity to thank all stakeholders and partners involved in this initiative, especially the sponsors, without whom this initiative would be but a mirage.
We are most grateful the sponsors of this initiative but also for their ongoing operations and human resource support.
I believe that we will be meeting again in the year 2012 to recognise excellence by more deserving youth and learners of our country.
In a way the flourishing of this idea serves as a monument to the sacrifices and efforts of the administrators and teachers who worked themselves into the ground during the SOMAFCOdays in Mazimbu.
Such luminaries include Babu Tim Maseko and Ntate Harry-Gordon ‘Squire’ Makgothi, all of whom are unfortunately no longer with us to witness the blooming of the seeds they helped sow
On a sadder note, our nation has just lost one the most inspiring figures behind our freedom, Umama Albertina Sisulu. While her departure is indeed a sad loss, let us take solace from the inimitable work she did during her lifetime.
Part of her contribution to our growth and development was her efforts in re-establishing a Somafco-inspired initiative in Mpumalanga province to help the children of returning exiles complete their studies.
We will miss this decent human being who showed extraordinary love for humanity and considered education a valuable tool for human development as well as for the realisation of freedom.
Lala ngo xolo Xhamela!!!!!!
Once again I thank all involved in this visionary initiative and again congratulations to SOMAFCO Prize Initiative for such exemplary commitment.
I thank you.
Source: The Presidency
Issued by: The Presidency
3 Jun 2011
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