Every day a Mandela Day for MEC Lesufi

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

By More Matshediso

Johannesburg - While South Africans and global citizens take the baton of leadership to transform their communities for the better and do something good for others this month, Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi carries out Nelson Mandela’s legacy daily through his work.

In July, everyone is encouraged to celebrate the late former President Nelson Mandela’s life by taking action to help change the world for the better, and by doing so, build a global movement for good.

Since few years ago, South Africans and the international community execute a series of activities on 18 July in this respect, a day that was declared Nelson Mandela International Day by the United Nations General Assembly in November 2009.

This is to recognise Madiba’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.

The campaign asks that individuals, groups and corporates pledge 67 minutes of their time and every day thereafter, to continue to give back to their communities. The 67 minutes symbolically represents the number of years the former President fought for human rights and the abolition of apartheid.

South Africans on the other hand have embraced the chance to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s life for the whole of July.

MEC Lesufi, who was appointed to hold office last year, recently spoke in an interview with SAnews about how he upholds Tata Madiba’s legacy, something that he says all leaders should do every day of their lives to make sure that Madiba’s spirit lives on.

July is also known as Social Cohesion Month, a principle that MEC Lesufi evidently holds high. During the month, South Africans are also encouraged to work together to develop a cohesive society by promoting the ideals of non-racialism, non-sexism, justice and equality for all as envisioned at the start of the country’s democracy.

The MEC has been promoting social cohesion through various programmes in Gauteng schools, fighting racial segregation and promoting access to quality education for all learners.

“Non-racialism is the future. We need to build social cohesion and ensure that all our children inside and outside the school premises understand the role that was played by our Former President Nelson Mandela.

“The right to education is one of the most fundamental rights in the Constitution and if any school, when applying its language and admissions policy, acts contrary to the Constitution, that policy must be disregarded,” said MEC Lesufi.

The MEC is fond of these sentiments as he often reiterates them when faced with undesired circumstances in the education sector.

More often than not, when announcing his plans through media, he is regarded ambitious by many critics, but he executes his plans shortly thereafter. Like the Twinning of Schools Programme which he piloted early this year.

“I am really excited with the Twinning of Schools Programme, it has so far moved faster than I thought. We have given ourselves a two year process to finalise what I call the apartheid school special planning, where schools were divided or built for learners based on their home languages like School for Tswana, Venda, Zulu and so on.

“We are now integrating all the schools so that they can be one. The first phase was the Twining of Schools Programme, in which we have got eight schools which we have fully twinned. We have passed the legislation and the schools are part of the legislative framework,” he said.

He said the department will monitor the pilot phase of the programme until the end of June 2016 and from then until December it will start to plan on how all the schools in the province can be twinned.

“I am quite excited with the programme, the eight schools that we have range from township schools, Afrikaaner schools, English school and former Model C schools, and they came voluntarily.

“I am also in a process of converting almost 124 schools from being a single medium schools amongst other things,” he said.

However, he said he is faced with a lot of challenges on the way to bringing about change in the sector, like Afrikaans Schools that are resistant to welcoming other languages to be taught in their schools.

Fighting racial segregation

“I believe I am the MEC for education. I am not the MEC for public or private schools, and therefore anyone who will use race to undermine the Constitution of the country, or the Bill of Rights of our country, I am equal to the task, I will tackle them head on.

“You have to build social cohesion using the minds of the young ones. If the young ones cannot feel comfortable, then it means we are going to have a racism problem forever.

“I am of the view that if we can prepare our young ones to study and play together, we will be in a position to build a future country. That is why I am determined to deal with anyone who disturbs the pattern,” he said.

Since early in the year, just after reopening of schools term until recently, MEC Lesufi has been preaching against segregation of learners in schools, he even attempted shutting down the Curro School in Roodeplaat, Pretoria North at some point, following incidents that had elements of racism and racial segregation at the school that caught media attention and made headlines.

Addressing inequality, access to quality education

“We have what I call a troika challenge, where people from rural areas believe that best education is found in townships, those in townships believe that it is found in urban areas, and those coming from Africa believe it is found South Africa. And we have to manage all these challenges,” said the MEC.

He said for now, the department is investing in township and rural education, and it has started with the basics to ensure that every school has the necessary sanitation, water and electricity.

“We will elevate it to our Information Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure,” he said.

Also this year, the department of education had distributed about 88 000 educational tablets to schools, but later recalled them so they could be fitted with tracking devices following a spate of burglaries into schools and 11 tablets being stolen. The majority of stolen tables have since been recovered. - SAnews.gov.za

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