Address by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the Warrenton Presidential School Project, Rolihlahla Primary School

30 August 1996

Premier of the Northern Cape Province, Mr Mannie Dipico;
Provincial MEC for Education, Ms Tina Joemat;
Representatives of Shell International and Shell South Africa;
People of Warrenton
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentlemen.

One of the most heartening things about our new South Africa is our people's commitment towards education. This is partly because education is associated with our children who are very close to our hearts. Equally it is because we all understand that education is the key towards realising our vision of a better life for all.

Today's function is all the more important because of the urgent educational needs of this province. With severe shortages of school buildings, close to sixty per cent of the province's young people are not attending school. For many of those at school the learning conditions are so bad that the annual matriculation exemption rate hovers around ten per cent.

The province is also short of teachers. As we consider recruiting teachers from other overstaffed provinces we have to address the question of their living conditions. In the past many teachers quit local farm schools here because of transportation and accommodation problems. Consequently, most pupils had to make do with unqualified teachers.

Apart from there being too few schools, many African and Coloured schools were also built along a clay belt that runs across this province. The movement of this belt has caused most of the buildings to crack and deteriorate. Schools that were built less than fifteen years ago are already falling apart. To rub salt into the wound, though communities were promised proper schools in the past, few were built. Hence Ms Tina Joemat is left with a huge backlog of school buildings.

These things, we do know, are legacies of apartheid. But it is now our responsibility to correct those wrongs. Blaming things on the past does not make them better. Our immediate task is to provide our young ones with proper education.

This is a challenge for all of us - teachers, parents, pupils, the business community and government. The problems must be addressed urgently, and they must be addressed in a joint effort. Government cannot solve the problems on its own.

It is with this in mind that I would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Shell South Africa for its magnificent contribution to this project. When last year I approached the chairman of this company, Mr John Drake, for assistance with one of the Presidential Lead Projects of the RDP, he readily agreed. He did so because Shell shared the Government's ideals of the Reconstruction and Development Programme.

In true RDP spirit, Shell didn't regard the project as its own, but placed it in the hands of a School Building Association comprising different stakeholders. Development is a joint responsibility. What we are witnessing today is the success of the entire community. The Warrenton community, Shell and the Northern Cape Province have provided a model of the kind of partnership that is rebuilding South Africa.

That spirit will stand us in good stead as we enter a truly exciting period for education in our country. The South African Schools Bill which is now before Parliament has widespread support. It will establish for the first time in our history the framework for a single, national public school system. When it is passed, this Bill will usher in changes for the benefit of all school communities. We shall all be able to work together to realise our ideal of a non-racial, non-sexist and fair system of schooling.

The school we are launching today will become a part of that new system of schooling. Let us congratulate the children who will be occupying the school and those who will be following them as the second and third phases of the project are completed.

And let me say to the children: the best and only was to show your gratitude to your parents and teachers, to Shell South Africa and to the government, is for you to study hard and excel. Your performance in the new school must be clearly better than your previous records at the hostel. Make the best of this opportunity.

Our nation needs you. Our future depends on the education you will receive here and what you make of it. Good luck.

It is now my privilege to unveil the plaque which will commemorate the official opening of the launch of the Rolihlalhla Primary School.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation