Minister Naledi Pandor’s Remarks to Learners at Zinikeleni Secondary School, 20 May 2022

Principal Mr Mathibela,
Executive Mayor of Gert Sibande district municipality, Cllr Dan Nkosi,
MEC for Education in Mpumalanga, Mr Bonakele Majuba,
Chair of the School Governing Body Mr Mhlanga,
Ambassador of Qatar Tariq Ali Al-Ansari,
Learners of Zinikeleni Secondary School,

It is an honour to be with you today, ahead of our President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Presidential Imbizo, which will take place later this morning not far from your school.

I am especially pleased to be able to hand over laptops which have been generously provided by Ambassador Al-Ansari and the embassy of Qatar. These laptops will provide you with the necessary tools to conduct internet research and to type up your assignments, which is necessary in preparing you for the world ahead.  I would like to thank the Ambassador for his generosity in providing these laptops, which are sorely needed by learners in our communities.

We cannot underestimate the importance of technology in our education system, and the extent to which learners need to access the internet to conduct research and find cutting edge information in the subjects they are learning. Without these tools, it makes embracing the fourth industrial revolution almost impossible.

Many of the Grade 12 learners at this school focus on Maths, Sciences, Technology and other technical subjects, which will assist in preparing you for the world ahead which requires these skills in a variety of different career choices. Laptops are particularly useful for these subjects, and I am sure each one of you will find that they facilitate your studies to a great extent.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the difficulty that learners face when they do not have access to technology and the internet, making virtual learning impossible. I have noticed that the pass rate in this school for Grade 12 learners in 2020 - the year of the hard lockdown - was only 66.7%. The lack of access to laptops must have put learners at a great disadvantage. Last year, when learners had been able to return to school for some of the year, the pass rate went up to 80.6%. I have no doubt that with the introduction of these much-needed laptops, the pass rate for this year will be even higher.

Each of you sitting here today hold the future in your hands - you are the future of this country.  We depend on you to take our country forward and become experts in the fields that you choose to work in. Many of you may have come from disadvantaged backgrounds, but many of our leaders today also started from humble beginnings, but rose above their circumstances, as they were determined to study hard and make a success of their lives.

Sometimes it is the children who are not handed things in life on a silver platter, and who really have to work hard to move ahead in life, that become the most successful in our society. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that education is a waste of time, as I can tell you that education is the key to unlock your future. The harder you work now at this critical juncture of your educational career, the more you will be able to take charge of your destiny.

Someone once told me when I was young, that if you work hard in high school, and especially in your matric year, you will be able to choose your college or university, rather than the college choosing you. In other words, producing good final results will enable you to choose where you would like to study at next, and it will open up your options for the future.

Our country desperately needs to groom a new generation of entrepreneurs who can use innovation and creativity to start new businesses that can compete in the global marketplace. We need learners who have an interest in developing e-ecommerce, and who excel in science and maths. We would like to see our girl learners become engineers and scientists and transform the landscape of the future. Much depends on the confidence of our learners to believe in themselves - that they can make a difference in South Africa’s future.

I leave you with this parting thought: many of the great revolutionaries of our struggle against apartheid came from poverty and didn’t have the advantages of those in more developed countries. They also lived under a system that tried to keep them down. But our leaders told them to believe in themselves, and to fight for a better and equal South Africa. It is through their sheer determination, courage, and sacrifice that we have freedom in our country today. It is now up to each of you to capitalise on what our heroes accomplished and gave their lives for and strive even harder to improve the lives of all South Africans and make our country a success.

I thank you.

ISSUED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND COOPERATION

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