Chairperson of the University Council, Advocate Johan Kruger
Deputy Chairperson of Council, Dr Joe Tshifularo, and members of the University Council
Vice-Chancellor, Prof Dan Kgwadi
Campus Rector, Prof Mashudu Davhana-Maselesele
Vice-Rector for Teaching, Learning and Quality Assurance, Prof Luvuyo Lalendle and all Vice-Rectors
The Registrar, Mr FM Nkoana
Executive Dean of the Faculty of Human and Social Sciences, Dr Marilyn Setlalentoa, and other Executive Deans
Our graduands and proud parents,
Ladies and gentlemen
We feel distinctly honoured to share this auspicious moment with you today – this very important milestone for every student, the graduation ceremony.
Let me therefore begin by congratulating all our graduands most heartily for this important achievement. It is truly a joyous occasion for the university, the community and the nation as a whole!
This achievement also came about as a result of a huge commitment and sacrifice from our parents. We thank all parents for their will and fortitude against many odds.
Vice-Chancellor, esteemed guests
I am truly privileged to share some words of advice with our new graduates.
First and foremost, I would like to remind the graduands that we all have a collective responsibility and duty as a nation to advance the ideals of the democratic society that we have been building since 1994, including service to this very university as alumni.
This duty we discharge through our constructive engagement with our national agenda, usually condensed in the form of programmes outlined from time to time by our leaders to improve the lives of the people of this country.
Paramount and of immediate significance in this national agenda, as we know, is the National Development Plan (NDP) launched by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma in November 2011.
The NDP describes the type of society that South Africa should be by the year 2030. The plan covers a range of sectors from education to the economy, climate change to infrastructure development, human settlements to nation building, health to rural economy. It is a comprehensive plan that is centred on eliminating poverty and reducing inequality and unemployment.
The NDP envisages a society where all citizens have all basic necessities such as water, electricity, roads, good quality education and health care and housing to name but a few. It is a society in which we live in much safer communities. To realise this vision, we need knowledgeable and skilled citizens. We are thus justified in celebrating that you are joining the drive to help this country to obtain the skills that will make South Africa a better place.
The fields of Humanities and Social Sciences have a very critical role to play in realising our country’s Vision 2030. Our new graduates will be available to help take forward the work that the country is doing to promote inclusive growth and development.
We urge you to bring new ideas into the working environment. Those going into the public service should come with new ideas of how to serve our people diligently and with care and efficiency. They should bring new ideas of how to improve and hasten the pace of delivering services. This means that they should be the beginning of a new cadre of public servants who care about citizens, especially the poor and marginalised.
Those in communications should know that their primary responsibility is to impart information to the public in platforms and languages that they will understand, information that people can use to improve their lives.
I am happy that among the graduands, there are many who will be graduating in social work. The Government aims to build a caring society where vulnerable people and families are provided with assistance, for example orphans and other vulnerable children. Ours is also a society where social ills affect many families who are in need of support. The scourge of drug and substance abuse affects families. Sadly our society also still faces challenges such as domestic violence, child and older person abuse, and child-headed households, which all require social workers to be on hand to provide support. Our country faces a serious shortage of social workers.
In order to address this shortage of social service professionals, the Department of Social Development continues to award more bursaries to South African youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially those from rural areas. A total of 9 787 Social Work graduates were produced since the inception of the programme in 2007. More than 7 211 have since been permanently appointed in Government as social workers. The Department is negotiating with National Treasury and the Department of Higher Education and Training to develop a plan to ensure that all social work scholarship graduates who are not yet absorbed into employment are placed.
Vice-Chancellor, esteemed congregants
Those going into the private sector should be ready as well to work hard and contribute to much needed economic growth and development. We are going through a difficult global and domestic economic condition. This means that many graduates may initially find it difficult to find jobs. It is for this reason that the Government signed the national youth employment accord with labour and employers in order to find a way for all parties to contribute to creating opportunities for our youth. There are various opportunities for young people to obtain learnerships and internships to gain experience, including youth employment schemes supported by the Government.
For young people who want to go into business, which we in the Government encourage, over the next five years, small business support will be prioritised. Township and informal sector businesses in particular will be supported, thus using the SMME development programme to boost broad-based black economic empowerment. We urge young people to look for opportunities and ensure that they benefit from the focus on youth development support.
We are happy as well that there are graduates in the languages, given that the Government has begun the implementation of the Use of Official Languages Act. As announced by the President in the State of the Nation Address in February this year, all national government departments, national entities and state-owned enterprises should have adopted their language policies by 2nd May 2015 in terms of the grace period provided in the extension of the deadline of 2nd November 2014.
Creating a skilled labour pool to enable the effective implementation of the Use of Official Languages Act is a major focus. The introduction of the Use of Official Languages Act will set the stage for the establishment of translation units in other government departments, thus enabling each government department to communicate directly with the citizens in a language they understand. We are looking forward to the promotion of all eleven official languages in government and thus more opportunities for our young people.
Vice-Chancellor, esteemed congregants
No economy grows in isolation. Our country is part of the global economy and builds partnerships for progress and sustainable development.
We need astute economic diplomats to enhance our competitive edge in the international economic environment and to harness opportunities presented by emerging markets such as India, China and Brazil. Through the leadership provided by President Zuma in the BRICS family, opportunities abound in this regard.
Our country needs robust strategies in every sector to engage the staggeringly growing economies on the African continent. The human and social sciences graduates should play an increasing role in the social and economic integration of the African Continent. The emerging development of the Tri-partite Free Trade Area (FTA) covering 600 million people across the African continent provides us with ample opportunities in this regard. People-to-people relations and contacts across the FTA have to be re-imagined, and the human and social sciences have a critical role to play in this regard.
It suffices to say that every one of the fields of study which the graduands have successfully completed is important and the entry of new graduates each year is most welcomed.
We urge our graduates to not only concentrate in urban areas in pursuit of careers, but to also keep the rural areas in mind. Our graduates should ensure that the rural economy is revived and sustained. This economy includes, among others, agriculture and its entire beneficiation chain, the green economy, tourism – which the North-West Province has prioritised, and arts and culture.
Vice Chancellor, ladies and gentlemen
As alluded to earlier, the success of our developmental aspirations and the National Development Plan hinges on a capable state that we are building. As graduates you constitute an important denominator in that success equation. Your knowledge and skills are much needed to strengthen our state machinery to advance sustainable development.
It is particularly pleasing that the graduation ceremonies taking place this week are seeing the awarding of a substantial number of post-graduate degrees. This is critical for our country’s quest to advance research and development, which is the bedrock of innovation and economic growth.
I would like to urge our graduates today to become change agents in our society. In his 11th Thesis on Feuerbach written in 1845, Karl Marx advises that: “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change.”
I urge our graduates to be fired with renewed enthusiasm to practically change our country for the better, as active citizens participating in concrete development programmes, as the NDP enjoins us to do.
You have all worked hard and deserve the success you have scored. Parents and the academic community as a whole have invested in the success that we are celebrating today. This graduation ceremony is the success not only of this university but the nation as a whole. You have made us truly proud.
Let us go out and assume our intellectual and other responsibilities in ways that would honour the contributions of eminent patriots associated with this province, such as Silas Thelesho Molema, Dr Modiri Molema, Sol Plaatje, Moses Kotane and JB Marks, whose transformative roles and intellectual accomplishments we should always seek to emulate.
Esteemed ladies and gentlemen, congratulations to you all.
I thank you.