Speech by Minister Faith Muthambi on the occasion of year end function for the Amplifying Community Voices Students Association at the University Of Venda, Limpopo
Chairperson of ACVOSA; Mr T Ngonyama
Director of ACVOSA: Prof. J. Francis
Organising Secretary: Mr M.B. Ramulongo
Members of the UNIVEN Institute for Rural Development
Ladies and Gentlemen
Members of the media
Good morning to you All
Firstly, I would like to thank the leadership of this Organisation for inviting me to address you at your year End event. I have heard and read about the great work you are doing to rural communities. As November has been declared a disability month, I would like to challenge you to pay special attention to these special people by focusing on how the Country can address some of the issues that we haven't achieved to date. Government has introduced various measures and mechanisms to address the needs of people with disabilities, however; we continues to hear and read about horrible stories on how they continue to be discriminated as some of the sectors of our economy are not transformed as yet.
I will appreciate it if some of your research can be directed towards expediting transformation across all sectors of the economy mainly prioritising how we can as a country empower or communities in rural communities to seek help for their children with disabilities at an early age so as to inform our early childhood development for those who do not have knowledge and the means to care for children with special needs.
I had the privilege of witnessing the birth and launch of this noble Association and I am proud to see it blooming like a flower today. This transformative Association which ranks amongst the most effective in the world, brings together the voices of students/graduates, lecturers and other role players involved in the process of development to construct ways of working that are emancipatory and empowering. This is because when individuals and communities do not govern themselves, they risk being ruled by external forces that care less about the well-being of their villages.
AVCOSA and its initiatives
I feel proud because from the Pre-amble of your Constitution, it is categorically stated that the Amplifying Community Voices Student Association (ACVOSA) is a voluntary/charitable organisation committed to promote democracy in rural community development through the adherence to principles and philosophy of engaging with the people. As a leader in Government in the ANC and other structures that I serve, a woman, sister, aunt and a mother, I am glad that you support Gender-Equity for you reflect that Management Committee shall be composed of equal numbers of male and female members. The Charter of Positive Values has as one of your objectives being to instil positive morals and discipline among your members. This fits like a glove to the Moral Regeneration process in the building of our Nation.
AVCOSA and rural development
Colleges and universities were regarded as ?Ivory Towers kept aloof from the society and its life. But, gradually it is being realised that teachers of higher education cannot do justice to their roles and responsibilities if they do not contribute to the realisation of national goals, fulfilment of their social commitments and be the agents of social change.
Poverty is the worst form of violence. We have serious disparities among the rich and poor in South Africa. The uneven-economic developments of the Apartheid era left us an insurmountable wedge between the haves" and the "have-nots"". For a higher institution of learning such as the University of Venda to have hatched such a noble initiative which brought together or partnership between wisdom of its rural people and skills of its professionals to work together in harmony, should be applauded.
When we want to help the poor, we usually offer them charity. Most often we use charity to avoid recognising the problem and finding the solution. Charity becomes a way to shrug off our responsibility, but it is no solution to poverty, it only perpetuates poverty by taking the initiative away from the poor. Charity allows us to go ahead with our own lives without worrying about the lives of the poor, it appeases our consciences.
The Traditional approach to rural development has historically been "top-down" where development authorities designed programmes which brought in infrastructure, human capital and investment from outside the rural communities. The investment in infrastructure and extension services were clearly beneficial in attracting basic commercial activities and increasing the quality of life in rural areas but did not necessarily provide a long term growing economic base. Many rural areas were not beneficiaries of such schemes as they were too expensive to be implemented. It was never an issue that local communities can also bring about indigenous initiatives for development. The main aim of the rural Government Policy is to develop rural communities.
Programme Director, there is always a need to bridge the gap between institutions such as AVCOSA and the communities they interact with.
An outsider may not understand the setting, culture, language and other things prevalent in the local area. As such, people in those communities have to participate in their sustainable rural development programmes. This is why, in a developing country such as ours, integrated development approaches such as bottom-up have to be seriously pursued.
Community members are increasingly shouldering the adverse consequences of the economic downturn and the growing inability of the state to provide economic and social development by initiating, mobilising and galvanising their own resources in the quest for improving their standard of living. The reliance on indigenous technology and local human resources has led to overwhelming popular participation in community-driven development.
Through your visionary leadership, you have turned things around by implementing new approaches which emphasise that any successful approach to rural development should be initiated from below or down-top approach. Community development should be based on local entrepreneurial initiatives with the explicit goal to ensure a balanced technological development of rural areas which would offer adequate employment opportunities and quality of life comparable to urban areas. This should encourage the growth of indigenous companies, increase the supply of entrepreneurs who will form the first generation entrepreneurs who will take risks and accept the uncertainties of new ventures.
By their own examples, they stimulate an autonomous entrepreneurial process that will ensure continuous rural development. I strongly concur with Lila Watson when she says "If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, we can work together." (Lilla Watson). Modern trends in rural development emphasises that "nothing about us, without us".
Benefits To The University Community
Nelson Mandela, former President of the Republic of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize awardee, was an inspiration to global leaders and has this to say about development: "Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronisingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future".
One of the principal challenges of economic development of rural areas is the development of a socio-economic environment that would be attractive to people.
Students are benefitting from engaging in practical research and developing valuable business skills and confidence that will better equip them to cope with and respond to burning needs of the community. Your members must become active participants and exemplary agents of change.
Students can see the value and impact of evidence from well-conducted research and, in taking charge of their own learning environment, they are benefitting the academic community, ensuring their learning needs and preferences are met, and sharing with staff the responsibility of keeping pace with new technologies.
I strongly believe that an honest open environment such as the one you have created can bring out the best in people and instil confidence in another person as he/she mellows up and become Special, Valuable and Precious. This becomes fertile ground to sow seeds of "COMRADESHIP".
Construction of stable families
As we become successful in our endeavours to build strong rural communities, we should not do this at the expense of healthy family relations and become public successes and personal failures.
We have a responsibility to instil pride in each other and give support as we nurture our families. A home is crucial because I believe it is the basic foundation of a stable family. The home is also the foundation of a stable society and that the authority a person exercises within the larger society must be rooted in the authority exercised at home. Thus, the training ground for all sound leadership is the family. Every support and guidance you give to the poor, be it financial, material or spiritual, provides the matchless gift-of-hope to make them face their families with a smile.
When families are strong and stable, so are children - showing higher levels of well-being and more positive outcomes. But when things go wrong - either through family breakdown or a damaged parental relationship - the impact on a child's later life can be devastating.
University funding challenges
One of the great liabilities of history is that all too often, many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change. Today, our very survival depends on our ability to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change. Students at tertiary institutions are up in arms demanding that "Fees Must Fall". This is a legitimate call but has to be well orchestrated and well managed because as fees fall, university infrastructures must remain intact and standing as we are custodians of the future generations of South Africa.
The prevailing unwritten general culture is that peaceful protests are never taken seriously in South Africa. Let's foster the spirit of healthy interaction through debates, articles, books and any other constructive means of putting the country first as we encourage each other to outgrow the sloganeering culture.
We must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. The old imperialism - exploitation for foreign profit - has no place in our plans. What we envisage is a program of development based on the concept of democratic fair dealings.
There is no greater calling than to serve your fellow men. There is no greater contribution than to help the weak. There is no greater satisfaction than to have done it well.
Our contribution purely depends on our consciousness and our willingness to support those in need, to share without expecting the credit or personal glory , to give it our all and allow our hard work to determine the outcome, to understand that control can only be achieved with a shared responsibility. Education gained in a lifetime is what helps us to reach our objectives, and grooms us to circumstances, situations and approaches.
We have just migrated the Northern Cape community from Analogue to Digital Television. This is the first ever Digital Migration switch-off in the Square Kilometre Array in the in the country last week Friday. This is a revolutionary move that make the indigent members of the South Africa society feel that they are "Proudly South Africans". Despite their geographic locations, they have become proud recipients of quality broadcast. We have now started with border Provinces to avoid frequency satellite disturbances with our neighbouring States before we switch-off Analogue throughout the whole of South Africa.
Government has committed to the handout five million subsidised Set Top Boxes to indigent families. This is our service to humanity to also complement what Amplify Community Voices Students Association is doing with rural development.
I view the formal adoption of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by the international community last year, as an indication that indeed, both our National Development Plan (NDP) and the Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) are great plans to to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
We must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. To you I say, make a commitment to serve the needs of those in the least developed areas and give voice to the voiceless.
Fees must fall and the intersection politics:
The struggle for free education is part of the transformation agenda. It is a struggle we engaged in as young leaders to decolonise education, transforming education to solve our people's problems and challenges from villages, townships or towns. A transformed education system gives you the true foundation to solve National, Continental and Universal problems. Our evolution as people depends on the high performance you dedicate yourselves in your programmes such as:
The Human capital development:
Training more than 200 village-level 'Foot Soldiers' of social change in participatory research methods and techniques;
Two PhD and three Masters in Rural Development theses plus 13 Honours degree research projects successfully completed.
Developing a draft short course on Leadership for Rural Development earmarked to be rolled out once official approval is granted;
It is then critical that your initiatives remain cantered within the aspirations of our people. I would like to encourage you to be more of the people's academics, who publish more than is required for your masters' programmes on the work you do with communities, to produce more academic papers for resolving issues of knowledge creation and increase the participation by these beneficiaries.
I thank you
Source: Government of South Africa.