Welcome address by the Chancellor, President Cyril Ramaphosa, at the graduation ceremony of the University of Mpumalanga
Premier of Mpumalanga, Ms Refilwe Mtshweni,
Minister for Human Settlements, Ms NomaIndia Mfeketo,
Chairperson of Council, Prof MD Mabunda,
Vice-Chancellor, Prof Thoko Mayekiso,
Guest Speaker, Dr MA Mdhluli,
Members of the Provincial Executive Council,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to this graduation ceremony of the University of Mpumalanga.
This occasion attests to our shared determination that all South Africans should have access to the best education.
It attests to our shared commitment to ensure that every young South African � regardless of where they come from or the circumstances in which they live � should be able to realise their full potential.
This university was established to correct a grave imbalance � to make a university education accessible, affordable and relevant to the people of this province and our country.
This university is founded on the conviction that education is the most effective instrument to improve the lives of our people and develop our communities.
Education remains the most effective tool to bridge the chasm of inequality that runs through our society.
It is through education that we can realise the goal of a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.
It is through education that we can give full expression to the rights enshrined in our Constitution.
Our society still bears the scars of its divided past.
In education, we are still grappling with the legacy of a deeply unequal and racially divided system.
From the beginning of the 20th century, the struggle of our people for equal and quality education was indistinguishable from the struggle for freedom.
When other terrains of struggle were shut down, schools and universities became centres of resistance and defiance.
It is one of our major tasks as a democratic South Africa to build schools and universities that become centres of excellence and enlightenment.
We must build institutions that equip students with the skills and capabilities to thrive in a modern economy and the consciousness to contribute to a better society.
We must build institutions that enable graduates to compete in a global arena and to face a rapidly-changing future with confidence.
Our university and colleges must respond to the conditions under which people live.
They must respond to the reality that millions of our people still live in poverty.
Levels of inequality remain among the highest in the world.
Economic activity is increasingly concentrated in large urban centres and rural areas are becoming poorer and less developed.
For the people to share in the country’s wealth, we need faster growth.
This means we need to produce more.
Specifically, the productive sectors of the economy � like agriculture and manufacturing � need to account for a greater share of economic output and employment.
We need to add more value to the minerals we extract and the agriculture products we grow.
We need to reduce the cost of production and improve efficiency.
We need to transform our economy, not only to correct the inequalities that still define our society, but to make our economy more competitive, more dynamic and more responsive to our people’s needs.
To make progress in all these areas, we need skills of the sort that are being developed here at the University of Mpumalanga.
We need young people of the sort that are graduting here today.
To all of you, we say ‘congratulations’.
You have already walked a long and often challenging road.
Many of you have had to confront not only the demands of academic study, but also the burden of poverty and inequality.
You have had to contend with the inequities of the past as you have struggled with the challenges of the present.
Now, you will enter a new world of opportunity and hope.
You will use your qualifications to expand your possibilities, to earn a living, to build a career.
You will work hard to improve your life and the lives of those around you.
You will be part of a new generation of skilled young South Africans building a new inclusive economy.
As you enter this new world, you must know that your families, your communities and your country have invested much in you.
They have invested in you their faith, their hope and their expectations.
They look to you to be the builders of our new democratic nation.
They look to you to reconstruct our country from the ruins of the past.
Together, we are working to build a society that is fundamentally different from the one that has come before.
But the difference we hope to achieve is not only material.
We are seeking to build a new ethic, a new morality.
We are seeking to build a society that is founded on integrity, honesty, compassion and solidarity.
We want to build a South Africa that values social justice more than the accumulation of wealth.
We want to build a South Africa that values the humanity of each person more than their nationality, race, gender, language or ethnicity.
We want a South Africa that values the essential dignity of each person and pays no heed to the office they occupy, their class or their status.
We want a society in which every person is a VIP and where only the poor and the vulnerable get preferential treatment.
Such a society begins with you.
As the graduates of this university, you are the vanguard of a new generation of South Africans.
It is up to you to build a society that is truly non-racial, in which all South Africans have a place and to which all our people belong.
It is up to you to build a non-sexist society, where women and men enjoy the same opportunities, where no woman lives in fear or feels constrained by social norms and practices.
It is up to you to build a society that is as united as it is diverse.
It is a society in which conflict is resolved through dialogue, where dissent is tolerated and where all are free to express their views, practice their religion and speak their language.
We look to you, the vanguard of this new generation, to forge a more cohesive society, where children are protected, the elderly are treasured and where neighbours look after each other.
We look to you to build a society where public officials do not line their own pockets, but serve the people honestly and selflessly.
We look to you to build a society in which business owners understand their responsibility to their employees, communities and broader society.
They understand that they are an integral part of society and will prosper only if all in society prosper.
Knowledge is a great asset.
We urge you to use the knowledge that you have gained here wisely and generously.
Use it to improve the condition of your fellow man and woman.
Use it to build a future for your children and for the planet that they will inherit.
As graduates, your words and deeds do not go unnoticed.
Many aspire to achieve what you have achieved.
You are a light in your community.
Do not hide that light and do not allow it to be extinguished.
Instead, use that light � the light that comes with learning � to illuminate the path to a better future for all our people.
I thank you.
Source: Government of South Africa