This must be the opportune moment to draw from my archives this remarkable speech by ex-President Masire which he made eight years ago when addressing the UCCSA’s Assembly.
The relevance of his comments to the situation today is uncanny. Patrick van Rensburg’s recent death inevitably prompted a re-telling of his startling and in the end unsuccessful attempt to make the education system more relevant. Sir Ketumile’s comments relating to this attempt were pertinent in 2009 and are perhaps even more pertinent today.
And then, only a very short time ago, there was the closure of the BCL copper/nickel mine in Phikwe and the disastrous impact that it has had on so many lives. Masire may have feared such an outcome but he couldn’t have anticipated this closure. His comments about mining employment are therefore timely and demonstrate a rare sensitivity and feel for others. It is indeed the tone of his very personal speech which is so striking. He sets out the problems and galvanises his audience to react. Enough. I commend to you this shortened version of the speech for your attention. It is one which for which I have long had much regard.
Address to the Assembly of the UCCSA. ‘I am an old Tiger; ‘I did my studies at the Tigerkloof Institute where I qualified as a teacher. I cherish very much not just the education I got from Tigerkloof, but the character formation I got from there too. Our education system was very encompassing. Yes, we devoted our time to a high standard of academic education, but our educational experience also involved a number of vocational programmes such as horticulture, piggery, milk production, sports and public speaking.
At the end of one’s education, one did not just have a certificate but one also had practical and life skills with which one could readily face the challenges of life. This is quite a contrast to the way the education system has gone these days. I wish to challenge you, the UCCSA, to consider how you can partner with Government in re-modeling our education system such that we can educate the next generation for life and not just for prestige. You currently run schools such as Moeding College and Maun Secondary School in Botswana, Indanda Seminary in South Africa, Dombodema, Inyati and Hope Fountain in Zimbabwe.
Is it possible for us as a Church to raise the level of discipline and diversity of programmes and create pride in our students at these institutions? In the past our region benefited greatly from Mission education and I implore us to revitalise that legacy as we tackle the
The Theme of the Assembly is “In Christ there is a Future, hope in the midst of an economic crisis.” We welcome our visitors to our humble land, Botswana, where we have in the past few months experienced this ‘economic crisis’ first hand. As you would know, our economy is heavily dependent on mining, especially diamonds. However, this economic meltdown has led to a decline in the sales of diamonds globally. The result is that our mines have had to slow down production and in some cases layoff workers or shut down completely. The impact of this has been astronomical as in most cases the miner has a few people who depend solely on that one salary that the miner gets. We cannot afford to fold our arms and feel sorry for ourselves, we have to probe and search for alternative ways of how to feed our children and continue with life.
I have always been a farmer, even though I have only had to do it part-time whilst I was on national duty. I believe that the earth has more potential for our livelihood than we realise. It is my conviction that we have enough land to feed our nations as the people of Southern Africa. Whilst the mining sector has served us well, this ‘economic crisis’ is a wake-up call to all of us to go back and till the land, rear cattle, sheep, chickens, ostriches and other livestock. We have to get our pride back and not look to the overseas markets to start normalizing before we return to life as we know it. God has given us brains, hands, land and other resources to feed our communities, our nations and ourselves. I appeal especially to the young who aimlessly roam our cities and towns whilst our fields lie fallow for years without any production on them. You have the capacity to change our reality of hunger, unemployment and despair. With the grace of God, you can do it.