Address by President Nelson Mandela at the dedication of Qunu and Nkalane Schools

3 June 1995

Premier of the Eastern Cape Province;
Honourable Ministers;
Dr. Venter;
Distinguished guests;
Ladies, gentlemen, and children

To be at one's first school of seventy years ago is a humbling experience. To share in the renewal of its fabric, is an inspiring one.

Our children are the rock on which our future will be built, our greatest asset as a nation. They will be the leaders of our country, the creators of our national wealth, those who care for and protect our people.

But if they are to take on this great responsibility, the rich potential in every child must be developed into the skills and the knowledge that our society needs. Education is the key to that process. It is also a door which opens from every village and city onto our larger society and indeed onto the whole world.

That lesson is spelt out with shocking clarity in the legacy of apartheid. This system also gained its notoriety for marginalising the majority of children as far as educational resources are concerned. Poverty, unemployment and illiteracy combine with lack of education to draw the same broad lines through our society as the divisions created by apartheid.

And this Eastern Cape Province is amongst the worst affected. The provincial government is busy renovating schools and even renting accommodation, in order to provide basic facilities for tens of thousands more children. But this is only the start of a long journey.

The cost to our whole society of these discriminatory policies is now clear for all to see. The lack of skills in our economy is holding the nation back from sustained economic growth.

Education, therefore, stands amongst the highest priorities for our country. It needs to be at the forefront as the emphasis in government shifts from planning to visible change.

For all these reasons the upgrading and extension of the Nkalane and Qunu schools is something which we welcome as a contribution to the lives of the two communities. But more than that, it has national importance.

The project whose completion we are marking today, provides an example of the spirit of partnership which must be our guiding principle. The government has taken important steps to define and start phasing in an education policy which meets the needs of our people and our times. This can only succeed in co-operation with communities, the private sector and the donor community. Masakhane! Let us build each other and build together.

Success requires that communities should play their part in fostering an appreciation of the importance of education amongst their young people and in caring for the education facilities which they have.

It demands that teachers dedicate themselves to the solemn responsibility that society has placed upon them, of nurturing the potential in our young people.

It requires that young people themselves make the most of the opportunity which education provides, to become builders of our new society. To achieve this, they must apply themselves purposefully to their studies.

On the part of the private sector, it means engaging its substantial capacity to contribute to the reconstruction of the education system. This includes steps to facilitate the enhancement of the skills of employees through training programmes, as well as making an input into the development of technical training generally.

But the private sector can also add directly to the resources available for meeting the most fundamental need of providing classrooms for our children.

Ladies and gentlemen;

I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to Dr. Venter, Chairman of ALTRON for the opportunity to share in the regeneration of these schools. You have set others who have the capacity to do so, a model of practical contribution to our national goal of building a better life for all.

I am deeply honoured to join with you in dedicating the renewed and enhanced facilities of this Junior Secondary School to the community of Qunu and its children.

I thank you

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation