Address by President Nelson Mandela at the ORT-STEP Institute Graduation

7 May 1996

Principal and staff members of the Institute
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen;
Students and graduates.

Let me start by thanking the organisers of this ceremony for having invited me to share this historical moment, the first graduation ceremony of an institute that is pointing the way to our future.

Technology education ought to be one of the cornerstones of our education and training.

Modern experience shows that there is a close relationship between the level of technology and science education in schools and the contribution which industry makes to a country's economy. Newly industrialised countries share the understanding that it is through technology alone that any country can ever hope to attain competitive advantage.

If South Africa wants to become a significant player in the world's economy then we must so that we can produce graduates with relevant training.

Investors are introducing into our economy machinery which demands technology machinery based on the system of g are gone. Our work-force must be prepared for this. If our products are to compete in the international market and also earn our workers decent wages, then our work-force must be properly trained.

But today there is an enormous shortage in our industry of people with technological education while our institutes continue to produce a surplus of human science graduates - hence our painful reality of unemployed graduates.

The foundation stone on which we must build to address this problem is the training of teachers in technology education. Each teacher will, in turn, train hundreds more students. Such teachers will also help bring about change in attitude towards the place of technology in our education system. They will give a lead in enabling us to solve today's problems with today's tools.

The Government of National Unity is firmly committed to orienting our education more towards science and technology education. The goal of the Ministry of Education is that by the turn of the century Technology Education will be an integral part of the national school curriculum. The Ministry has also decided that resources should be shifted towards the training of science teachers. Time is not on our side. Industrialised countries are opening the gap on us in this field and we have to catch up.

Our country is also faced with a huge unemployment problem. Education can be a key ingredient in tackling this problem, by giving the skills our economy needs. Technology Education widens the options available to school leavers. They can either go to industry, establish their own businesses, or continue with tertiary education.

Ladies and gentlemen;

For all these reasons, investment in our human capital through education is one of our highest priorities It will help unleash the potential squandered by the neglect of apartheid and in doing so it will equip our youth to become builders of our nation's wealth.

The initiative of this Institute could not, therefore, have come at a better time. The inferior and irrelevant education which apartheid imposed on our people, and the schools which lack proper equipment, are giving way to a system that meets our nation's needs.

The initiative is making an imaginative and far-reaching contribution to that process, helping open doors that have been closed to most of our people. Like all broad changes sweeping our society towards a better life for all, this drive to boost our technology and science education is based on partnership - a partnership of educators, business and government.

The graduates who are passing out today have a challenge on their hands. As pioneers the whole country will be focusing on what you do and scrutinising the results you achieve.

The success or failure of this project rests on your shoulders. We look to you to set the pace. If we are to reach our goal of economic growth of six per cent by the turn of the century, the we are going to need many such graduates to help make it happen.

Congratulations and good luck.

I thank you all

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation