Speech delivered by Hon Rejoice Mabudafhasi, Deputy Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs during the 2012 National Youth Water Summit in Birchwood Conference Centre, Boksburg, Gauteng Province
6 Jul 2012
Honourable Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs: Mrs Edna Molewa
Honourable Minister of Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation: Mr Collins Chabane
Deputy Minister of Human Settlements: Ms Zou Kota-Fredericks
MMC for Water and Energy: Ekurhuleni Municipality: Mr Aubrey Nxumalo
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Heads of Departments
Chief Executive Officers of Public Entities
Senior officials from various government departments
Partners from the Business Community
Principals, Educators and Learners
Members of the media
I am happy to be part of the 2012 Youth Water Summit where the in-school youth and out of school youth engaged in various educational activities under the theme “Meaningful participation of Africa’s youth in water resource management can contribute to sustainable development.”
Thirty six years ago the gallant youth of this country embarked on a peaceful march against injustice which started in Soweto and spread countrywide. The march turned fatal and as a result as many as 176 of these young people lost their lives to the brutal police force of the time. This uprising ultimately influenced change in the socio-political landscape of the country including the academic dynamics.
As we celebrate the Youth Summit today let us pay tribute to the youth of 1976 who braved bullets, lost their youth and lives so that we could attain and enjoy the freedom that we are enjoying today.
As we congregate here today, ladies and gentlemen we celebrate the inspiration and promise of our youth for showing the world, once again, our collective ability to achieve great things. We are here to congratulate the national winners and the finalists of the 2012 South African Youth Water awards.
These young people will be awarded in the following categories: Baswa le Meeste (Youth in Water), South African Youth Water Prize, Aqua Enduro and Public speaking.
I cannot think of a better tribute to the indomitable spirit of the youth of this country than to recognise the achievements of the boys and girls who participated in this important competition. It is thus with a sense of pride and joy that I am part of this summit to interact and bestow upon them the much deserved accolades.
South Africa is blessed with vast natural resources; however it is not so blessed when it comes to one precious resource – water. We are a water-scarce country. We rank amongst the 30 most arid countries in the world. This therefore calls for usage of water sustainably, conservatively and sparingly.
The sustainability of this resource will be achieved only if our citizens are educated about water resource management, sanitation, health and hygiene. The participation of our communities and our children as stakeholders is crucial to us achieving this goal. It is in this context that as a Department we are passionately driving education and awareness programmes such as the 2020 Vision for Water and Environment Education Programme.
Description of the education programme
The father of our nation, President Nelson Mandela, once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon, which you can use to change the world.” We are proponents of that visionary insight. We believe that the best way to educate the nation is to educate its children.
The 2020 vision programme, which includes the South African Youth Water Prize, is aimed at educating our society about the importance of water conservation and demand management, and sanitation. This programme also includes the Baswa Le Meetse Awards which focus on primary school learners. Through these initiatives which are both educational and fun we are able to create awareness of the limited water resources and our need to protect and conserve these resources.
One of the benefits of this programme is that it further enhances the interest of learners in science and technology as well as mathematics, which are critical skills for our country. Each day, we hear of the critical skills shortage in our country. The water sector is faced with a challenge of dwindling technical skills as many technicians and engineers are ageing and will soon be retiring. We therefore need more of our children, especially girls, to study science and mathematics and go into these areas of work.
The reality is that our learners are still reluctant to take up mathematics and science subjects despite the enormous employment opportunities that exist for people with skills in these areas. It is for this reason that we are taking the responsibility of encouraging them to take up these subjects and with the support of our partners and the sponsors we are providing schools with resources such as laboratories and computers.
Acknowledgment of programme pioneers
I would not be doing justice to this event if I don’t acknowledge the doyens of 2020 Vision programme.Professor Kader Asmal, the late Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, and Dr Guy Preston, who was his Advisor then who later founded Working for Water (WfW), a comprehensive programme ofremoving alien trees from our rivers’ catchment areas. Through their research they discovered that the alien trees sucked at least 30% of our water resources and this put a strain on the already scarce water resources.
The Working for Water project led to the periodical employment of thousands of South Africans who worked in the catchment areas to get rid of the alien plants such as gum trees and wattle. They also introduced the National Water Conservation Campaign which played a critical role in harnessing water resources and it was embraced by the international community.
It is against this background that the Africa Youth Water Summit was started. Through the summit the Department of Water Affairs seeks to empower young people to actively participate in water conservation and to pursue water related careers. Since day one of the summit we have seen the passion of all the learners here and their dedication to water conservation issues.
The 2012 Youth Water Summit had a dedicated session for out of school youth which will be attended by young people from across the African continent. The Out of School youth reached the following outcomes during the summit: a consolidated report of existing youth initiatives/programmes from respective participating countries, draft Africa Youth Strategy on Water and Implementation plan, roadmap leading to Youth Strategy adoption across Africa and proposal for Africa Junior Water Prize culminating to Stockholm Junior Water Prize.
The Out of School youth have shared bright ideas with their peers from among other African countries: Chad, Tanzania, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Botswana, Swaziland, Uganda, Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Malawi, South Sudan, Lesotho as well as South Africa. No one can deny that these children are the future of this continent and world, it is therefore important for them to engage in such important debates. The future is in their hands. Through poetry, drama, poster design, traditional dance and praise singing they have showed determination to involve themselves in water conservation matters and its efficient use.
Honoured guests, we therefore urge the educators, community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations and the municipalities to embrace and nourish this talent with the aim of ultimately conserving our scarce water resources. Municipalities must involve these youths in their war on leaks by fixing leaking taps and pipes in their own areas.
Educators should develop civil engineers among these learners. I have no doubt in my mind that the shortage of technical and engineering skills in this country will be addressed from among these dedicated youths. This summit also relates to our National Strategic Plan and Medium Term Strategic Framework which calls for sustainable resources management and use as well as the building of cohesive caring communities.
The department will continue to embark on robust educational programmes with specific messages which will be focused on the topical issues such as water leaks, water quality etc. The national winning schools will be put into Eco schools 3 year programme (integration of water and environment) which will include impact assessment. The careers promotion will be one of the key focus areas of the education programme.
In conclusion, I would like to thank our partners: Rand Water, MTN, Coca Cola, ERWAT, Sedibeng Water and National Youth Development Agency, without you we would not be able to host this successful Youth Water Summit.
I also want to thank our sister departments for their contribution towards youth development and the departmental and ministry staff for the sterling work of ensuring that we continue to host the annual youth pilgrimage.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Water Affairs
6 Jul 2012
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