Remarks by the Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation during the occasion of the NWU Symposium on Internationalisation and Social Cohesion, North West University, Mafikeng, 19 May 2017
Vice Chancellor of the University of NWU
University Management and Staff
Members of the Media
Ladies and gentlemen
I am indeed humbled to be afforded this opportunity to have this focused discussion with you. The agreed theme for our interaction today is “Promoting Social Cohesion and Internationalism”. I am grateful for the North West University for arranging this occasion and the attendance bears testimony to the hard work you have put into preparations thereof.
I must state from the onset that that the timing of this event is fitting given that we are celebrating Africa Month. As you are aware the 25th of May marks the commemoration of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which has been transformed to our present day African Union.
In this context I can attest that our forbearers such as Kwame Nkrumah did not just envision a united continent which is at peace with itself, but worked hard to promote social cohesion and internationalist approach to development. During his OAU inaugural speech this iconic leader shared his vision of independent Africa and stated:-
“Independence is only a prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations”.
These aspirations have not been lost nor forgotten, in fact they are embodied in Agenda 2063 which build on these legacies. The AU’s Agenda 2063 is therefore a shared vision that seeks to enhance socio economic transformation of our continent in order to improve the living conditions of all its citizenry.
We aspire an African continent which is inclusive and influential in a global stage. This vision resonates with our theme today which place emphasises on social cohesion and the internationalist background and cooperative outlook of our foreign policy.
In this regard South Africa’s foreign policy was shaped by proponents of social cohesion, Pan- Africanism and internationalism such as OR Tambo. Accordingly the President has declared 2017 as the year of OR Tambo who would have turned hundred years old this year, had he lived longer.
Ladies and gentlemen
President Tambo was also passionate about education and championed the establishment of educational institutions which would impart knowledge to young South Africans in exile. He established relations with institutions of learning in various countries in order for them to accommodate our young patriots who joined the struggle against the evil system of apartheid.
I must therefore comment the NWU for this vision and the trajectory which will further continue towards the realisation of OR Tambo’s values and aspirations in the purview of education. This is important for a myriad of reasons, but importantly it’s a step in the right direction in growing the institution as well as the dynamism of the calibre of students that will emanate from this institution.
The decision taken by the University to reflect on how best we can build inclusive and tolerant communities through education resonates well with the approach we took as the government in 1994 when the ruling party assumed leadership.
Our primal role was to reconnect with the world in order to grow this country as an active global citizen that occupies a right place in a globalised and inter-dependent world.
This undertaking has yielded significant results especially in growing the economy and building the reputation of South Africa as a formidable figure in the international community. As such we have been bequeathed with a number of leadership roles which have seen us grow in stature and influence.
This marked an era of commencing to rebuild our educational system and reverse the apartheid era system which was exclusive by design and robbed our people of opportunities to fully realise their potential. The exchange of intellectual ideas and information sharing gives our students and country a competitive edge. We can ably compete and interact in a variety of foras like in the fields of science, culture, economics and many more as our students would be better equipped.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The importance of internationalisation cannot be overstated, especially in aiding Africa’s integration agenda. The premise of Africa being central to our foreign policy necessitates that our people take pride in their collective identity and work together as Africans in pursuit of a shared destiny.
In essence we need to share expertise and knowledge, particularly with other higher education institutions on the continent. For us to realise Agenda 2063 that I spoke about earlier, we must invest in skills development and innovation in science, technology, maritime, engineering and other scares skills.
This has been in part a focus area of our foreign policy, particularly in supporting countries emerging from conflicts through capacity building and reconstruction programmes (PCRD) in partnership with South African higher learning institutions.
A case in point was our partnership with UNISA- the Government of South Sudan and DIRCO in providing Public Service Administration courses to their public service as they emerged from civil war. This greatly contributed to the building of their institutions and rebuilding their country.
This has not been an isolated case, rather we receive numerous requests for bilateral cooperation with a number of higher learning institutions to partner with South African universities. This is in recognition of not only our capable institution but also the need to share knowledge and expertise as I earlier mentioned.
In this regard, this cooperation partnership in education also finds expression in the SADC strategic documents such as the SADC Protocol on Education and Training. South Africa is a proud signatory to this protocol which paves the way for educational institutions in Southern Africa to deepen co-operation.
It is within this context that South African Universities, in addition to local students, they admit student from neighbouring countries. The SADC Protocol therefore encourages institutions of higher learning in Southern region to:
- reserve at least 5% of admissions for students from SADC nations;
- facilitate the mobility of their staff and students within the region for purposes of study, research, teaching and other pursuits relating to education and training;
- Treat SADC students as local students for purposes of fees and accommodation;
- establish institutional partnerships with other institutions of higher learning in SADC, and encourages establishment of collaboration agreements between their components.
In the context of the broader South we supported and contributed towards the establishment of the BRICS Think Tank Council in 2013. The Council provide an important and inter-regional platform for academia and business leaders to share expertise and knowledge in various fields.
We believe that international relations is not an exclusive domain of government and as such this Council compliment the work of our own South African Council of International Relations (SACOIR). SACOIR provide advice to the Executive on issues that affect South Africa in the international sphere.
Ladies and gentlemen
Moreover and at national level, our endeavours in this regard are guided by the government’s apex policy document, the National Development Plan (NDP), as well as the National Plan for Higher Education (NPHE of 2001) was published by the South African Department of Education.
The NDP requires us to build an educational system that will enable us to address the challenge of poverty in our communities thereby contributing towards a resilient economy.
Furthermore the NPNHE policy framework seeks to build research capacity both in South Africa and in the rest of the African continent by, among others, encouraging South Africa's Higher Education Institutions to recruit and train postgraduate students from the continent as well as other developing countries.
Most importantly and directly linked to internationalism, the plan also recognises the role international students can play in enriching the life experiences of local students in South African campuses thus proposing that their presence will "enrich the educational experience of South African students and broaden their understanding of the social, cultural, economic and political ties that underpin the people in the SADC”.
The NPHE further addresses the need by South African Higher Education Institutions to constantly strive for employment equity in their campuses by recruiting black and female staff from the rest of the African continent.
Moreover, it will promote multi-culturalism and multi-racialism which will contribute to social cohesion not only amongst South Africans but with our fellow brothers and sisters from the continent and elsewhere.
It would be amiss if I didn’t recognise the challenges that we are faced with in regard to the funding via education in South Africa. Government is working together with partners and various stakeholders to find a solution of this matter of national importance.
Nevertheless, for our part as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, our Missions abroad are hard at work in trying to source opportunities for our youth through amongst others exchange programmes and scholarship programmes.
I am encouraged to highlight that we have identified a variety of scholarship opportunities in which a significant number of South African youth are benefitting from and others are in the process of being finalised. We have students studying in countries like Ireland, Cuba, Japan, China and many more.
In closing, it’s important that we utilise our institutions of higher learning as centres to achieve and promote social cohesion between our people. The benefits for this institution and our country will contribute positively in placing our learners and professionals in a position where they are at par with their counterparts globally.
I thank you!!!!
ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION
OR Tambo Building
460 Soutpansberg Road