Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Damelin Business College graduation ceremony, Johannesburg

13 February 1997

Master of ceremonies
Distinguished guests;
Staff and graduates of Damelin business College;
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is indeed an honour to have been invited to address this graduation ceremony. Due to your hard work I have the privilege of sharing the joy of your deserved success and the warm glow of your achievements.

Some of you may have decided to study to enhance your skills in your various spheres of work; others to equip yourselves to seek jobs. Whatever the reasons, in doing so you have decided to contribute to our country's prosperity. The more effective and productive you become at work, and the more you become employable through education, the more the country benefits.

In this era of stiff international competition we have to become productive and competitive if we are to prosper as a nation. An expanding pool of skilled labour in our country will also attract both domestic and foreign investment.

Being with you tonight is a way of reaffirming government's commitment to education. That commitment is based on the knowledge that without human resource development, there can be no serious reconstruction and development of South Africa.

Our youth is our future. Whether our country will rise from the ashes of apartheid to become one of the world's success stories will to a large extent depend on what we invest in educating and training our youth.

Government has prioritised education. We have invested millions of rands in the past two and half years: building, renovating and extending schools; promoting a culture of learning and teaching; providing financial aid for needy students; establishing youth colleges; and redistributing educational resources to attain equity. Very high on our agenda is the upgrading of science and technology education, one of the greatest casualties of apartheid's neglect.

We have had significant support from the private sector in improving access to education and enhancing its quality, especially in poor rural communities. There is a growing acceptance by the private sector as well as community development organisations that government alone cannot overcome the legacy of deprivation of educational resources and facilities.

This understanding is reflected in the thriving of learning institutions like Damelin and others throughout the country. Through them, those of us who could not secure a tertiary business degree, are able to access affordable and job-related education and acquire skills essential in today's world of work. The certificates you receive today will open up job opportunities. The knowledge you have gained will strengthen the enterprises and organisations you work for.

Such institutions are critical in our overall human resource development strategy. The 400 000 jobs a year that will be created through the implementation of the Macro-Economic Framework strategy will need skilled patriots to occupy them.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, may I urge our graduates here to regard the achievements we are marking tonight not as the end, but rather as the beginning, of a continuous process of learning. We are in an age in which revolutionary technological change will continuously transform the workplace and drastically alter the factors that determine success or failure, victory or defeat, and even survival of enterprises.

As our parents, brothers, sisters and leaders we are proud of you. the challenge before you is to go and use the education and skills you have acquired to make South Africa a winning nation. I am sure I also speak on behalf of your teachers in saying that we are confident that you have all it takes to make a positive contribution to the prosperity and growth of our economy, and to help build a better life for all South Africans.

Congratulations to all of you!

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation