Recent incidents of students making their voices heard at tertiary institutions across the country – on the topic of transformation – has certainly confirmed the foresight and relevance of the annual Beyers Naudé Memorial Lecture by the Kagiso Trust.
The Trust in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and the Anglican Church of George, in the Western Cape, provided a platform for the youth, academics and religious leaders to engage in open discussion around the 2015 Beyers Naudé Memorial Lecture theme of “Speaking to the spirit of Oom Bey: Transformation in a democratic South Africa” last month.
Now in its 12th year, the lecture tackles South Africa’s unique challenge of addressing transformation in a democratic dispensation.
The Oom Bey Exhibition at the church hall displayed the life of Dr Beyers Naudé from childhood to a young minister and political activist for transformation following the Sharpeville Massacres in 1960 – which was commemorated on March 21 – as well as the influence of the Black Consciousness Movement right up to his death and the celebrations of his life and values.
The exhibition captured the true spirit of Oom Bey by emphasising that transformation, although a challenging, tedious and sometimes dangerous journey is possible – and formed an inspiring backdrop to the event.
In his introduction at St Marks Anglican Cathedral, NMMU George Campus Principal Professor Quinton Johnson stressed the need for the youth to take action and for South Africans to become better individuals and contribute to the transformation of the country.
“As universities we are good at talking, we need to translate what we say to make a meaningful impact on the lives of ordinary people,” he said.
Keynote speaker Bishop Brian Marajh, of St Marks Anglican Cathedral, continued with the transformation thread, noting of Naudé that “a staunch Afrikaner was transformed; he possessed a consciousness that was foreign to his people at the time. He underwent real transformation.”
Nombuyiselo Anthea Duma, a NMMU BTech Nature Conservation student, provided one of the many youth voices at the event.
She noted, “I am reminded that people died for these opportunities and by that virtue I seize them and work to be the best today because there may be no tomorrow.
“I am motivated to fight and make my own dreams real despite the dilemmas and obstacles I have failed in; I count and celebrate my successes.” In her address, Nombuyiselo noted that employment still remains a major problem amongst youth. She highlighted qualification and experience suitability as the key employment dilemmas she faces. One gets questioned with being under or over qualified, if their experience is relevant and if their experience duration is sufficient.
Sivuyile Sawuti, another youth panellist speaking on dreams and dilemmas in a present South Africa, highlighted that education is still imperative in creating transformation.
“In South Africa, the standard of education cannot be equally measured as there are still many schools not functioning to the required level. This is evident from the fact that they do not have sufficient textbooks, sufficient desks and sometimes incompetent teachers. If BEE is to be successful, a high standard of education needs to be implemented equally across the board,” Sawuti noted.
In his address, Sawuti stressed that racial discrimination is still present in our democratic South Africa, that there is a need for transformation. “People are still pessimistic and being devided according to race. There are still limited opportunities such as education. Conflict and violence in South Africa has sky rocketed as we see the atrocious recent xenophobic attacks on the news.”
High school learner and panellist, Annebelle Llyod articulated her dream for South African youth: “I dream of a South Africa where everyone, no matter what race, has access to good quality education. This would be the main solution to most of the issues we face in our country” she said. “If everyone had a good education behind their name, then issues such as unemployment and the lack of basic services wouldn’t be relevant in our democracy like it is today.”
In closing, Duma thanked that Kagiso Trust, NMMU and Marajh – as well as the hard work and dedication of democracy activist Dr Christiaan Frederick Beyers Naudé in aiding the promotion of transformation in South Africa.
The next Beyers Naudé Memorial Lecture will take place on 29 August 2015. For more information visit the Kagiso Trust website: www.kagiso.co.za