Address by President Nelson Mandela at the 10th anniversary celebrations of Noluthando School for the Deaf, Khayelitsha

3 June 1998

Mayor of Tygerberg city;
Chairperson of Noluthando Board;
Principal, teachers and students of Noluthando;
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am deeply honoured to be with Noluthando and its friends on the very joyous occasion.

When the school was founded I was still in prison. Some of you students are probably too young to remember what life was like in apartheid South Africa. But you will know that it was not a friendly place for the majority of South Africans.

Discrimination meant there were very few opportunities for people to learn skills and earn a decent living. For the majority of our people, there was no proper education, no proper health services.

It was even worse if you had any kind of disability. The chances of getting a proper education and a job were very slim.

From its small beginnings in those days Noluthando has grown from strength to strength. That is because more and more people have realised that they too could become self-sufficient and started participating in their own development.

We must first of all warmly congratulate all those who tended to the birth of this fragile baby ten years ago, some of whom are here today. That baby has grown into a respected and dear Noluthando, a Mother of Love.

What we see here today is a vigorous part of our effort to educate our nation for reconstruction and development, teaching not only children who are deaf but also adults.

It is an inspiration to see deaf people being trained in building trades, hairdressing, panel beating, spray painting and other technical skills, so that they can write the trade tests and become artisans. They too are being given the chance to take up the many opportunities that democracy has opened up for all our people.

Our new, democratic constitution guarantees the basic human rights of every individual. It prohibits unfair discrimination against anyone on the ground of gender, race and disability. Those who were once marginalised now have the right to equal protection and benefit of the law.

In order to give real meaning to these rights our constitution provides for the promotion and development of sign language.

We can truly say that the foundations have been laid for making South Africa completely deaf-friendly. But government cannot achieve this on its own. It does not have the resources to establish specialised institutions like this one in a hurry. That is why Non-governmental Organisations play such an important role in our development as a nation.

Just as NGOs took initiatives in the past to provide for the education and training needs of the disabled, you still have a special role to play now and in the future. With government, the private sector and the community you are partners in our nation's growth and development.

We must once more stand together to enable this Mother of Love to survive and to keep fulfilling her special role for these children we see around us here today.

I would like to make a special appeal today to employers to assist in whatever way they can to give these young people a chance. When they have obtained their trades, they must be absorbed in the formal labour market or helped to become self-employed.

They have a hearing disability - but they are able to work! Given a fair chance, they can fend and care for themselves and their families.

I also want to make a special appeal to the community here in Khayelitsha and the entire area of the Western Cape which Noluthando serves. Cherish and support this shinning light in your midst in whatever way you can.

There can hardly be a better investment than this, an investment in our future.

Together let us help realise the potential of a very special category of people, the learners of Noluthando and their teachers.

I thank you.

Issued by: Office of the President

Source: South African Government Information Website