Address by President Nelson Mandela at the official opening of the Northern Province Presidential Projects

10 September 1996

Premier of the Northern Province, Ngoako Ramathlodi;
Brian Gilbertson, Chairman of Gencor;
Members of the Provincial Executive and Legislature
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and gentlemen,

Since our first democratic elections the people of South Africa have been working together for a better life for all. Amongst the things we need to achieve that goal are good health care and education. And these things must be available to people where they live.

This is the message of the projects we are launching today.

In April this year the government introduced free primary health care for all. But that right will only become a reality if people can easily reach a clinic. Now, thanks to this project 120,000 people in this area rage of 18 kilometres to a medical point. The clinics being built will also have modern technology and they will operate around the clock.

In the same way our goals in education require classrooms. A poor learning environment contributed to the shocking 8 per cent matric exemption rate in this province last year. Most pupils have to study in shack classrooms and under trees. That is one of apartheid legacies which we must correct. Those who will use the schools we are opening today will be pioneers of a new order.

There is another legacy we must deal with. Because apartheid excluded most of our people from scientific, technical and managerial positions in the economy, they were also deprived of education in those spheres. As a result many of our graduates have skills in subjects which are not urgently required. Our children s that our country needs to achieve economic growth. That is why our Ministry of Education has shifted teacher-training resources in favour of science. And that is why this province is to be congratulated for its courageous steps to re-orientate some of the graduates in this direction.

In the past the Northern Province was largely a neglected labour reserve. The classrooms we are opening today will cater for three and a half thousand pupils. But the province still needs 35 000 more classrooms. The literacy rate is 35 per cent. All these things are daunting challenges to the people of this province.

It is heartening to see how you have risen to this challenge. Instead of folding your arms and waiting for someone in Pretoria to improve your lives, you have joined hands - parents, teachers, the business community and government - to lift yourselves from the ashes of apartheid neglect. That is the spirit of the RDP.

The "Invest in a School" campaign, under the banner of Gencor, is a shining example of partnership. It will attract all those who are concerned with the learning conditions in this province. I commend your resolve to continue the campaign for as long as there are children under trees and in shack classrooms in this province.

Such unqualified commitment to the future of children must spur the pupils who will occupy these schools to roll up their sleeves. As I congratulate them on their good fortune, let me add that the only way they can show their gratitude is to excel in their work. We expect a marked improvement in this year's results.

Finally, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Gencor for the way they threw their lot behind this project. They worked with the community in a joint venture as equal partners and not as sponsors, and the result is a joint community venture. They have shown that they are a permanent part of this province and its people.

It is now my privilege to unveil the plaques that will commemorate the official launch of these clinics and schools.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation