Item 1343 - Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the Gala Night on the 90th Anniversary of the Transvaal United African Teachers Association

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ZA COM MR-S-1343


Speech by President Nelson Mandela at the Gala Night on the 90th Anniversary of the Transvaal United African Teachers Association


  • 1997-02-21 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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90th Anniversary of the Transvaal United African Teachers Association

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  • English

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Master of Ceremonies,

There are only a few organisations in South Africa which can boast of an active existence back to the beginning of this century - fewer still which can, like TUATA, retrace their steps to the furnace in which our national liberation movement was forged.

The African National Congress not only shares a common history with the Transvaal United African Teacher's Association. It was born out of the same loins of struggle. We are bound by the same umbilical cord. Sefaka Mapogo Makgatho, whose name we honour tonight, was a founder member of both our organisations, and a President of both.

This son of Africa was one of the greatest patriots and leaders our country has ever produced. Alongside leaders like Pixley Seme; John Dube and others, Makgatho was a central figure, as far back as the last century, in the mobilisation of African communities in resistance to both British colonial power and the Boer republic.

Because Makgato was also a teacher his memory brings sharply to mind the role of our teachers in the fight against apartheid. It focuses our thoughts, too, on the new roles of teacher organisations in the democracy which they helped to achieve.

The contribution of teacher organisations to the demise of apartheid education needs no telling tonight. Your organisation is part of that proud history of social transformation.

And in the best traditions of organisations of the oppressed, TUATA not only fought apartheid education but also promoted the cultural and educational development of our teachers and students as well as the broader community.

TUATA has consistently defended the right of children to learn, even in the most trying circumstances. Indeed, you did not always see eye-to eye with your black colleagues over how teachers should conduct themselves under apartheid. It required courage to stick to positions that were not popular, and even those of us who fundamentally disagreed, still respected your right to take your own decisions as an independent organisation.

That is part of our history, our past that we can do nothing to change. It is part of the context in which we are defining new roles for teachers in shaping the future of our education system.

We are aware of the positive contribution TUATA is making through NAPTOSA in processes and debates to transform our education system. It is deeply encouraging to know that while teachers still bargain in separate organisations in the Education Labour Relations Council, they jointly formed the South African Council of Educators as the first non-racial professional registration body for teachers.

The formation of the Council is a step in the right direction, a step towards greater teacher unity and co-operation in the interest of teachers, pupils and our nation

Like the ANC, TUATA's mission was informed by objective material conditions. It organised African teacher's in the Transvaal province precisely because black teacher's conditions differed from those of their White, Indian and Coloured counterparts.

The people of South Africa have seized the opportunity that democracy brings to transform those conditions and address the legacy of apartheid. The question that faces all organisations, whether it be in education or in any other field, is how to respond to the need, created by the new socio-political conditions, to transcend our old provincial and racial boundaries. How do we affirm a proud past and at the same time embrace the needs of the future. As teachers, how do we best build teacher unity in order to collectively pursue common objectives?

This is not a debate which still lies somewhere in the future. We are aware that TUATA is at present changing her mission statement to be in line with the new democratic system and that drastic changes have already been made to its constitution to meet the new challenges. These commendable steps, no doubt, are part of a process that will bring the organisation still closer to other teacher formations and the establishment of one national non-racial teachers' organisation.

Teachers can be counted on to rise to the occasion and meet the new challenges. The government will continue to provide avenues for the meaningful participation of organised teachers in revamping the education system. We will continue to improve the conditions for teaching and learning by building new schools, improving existing ones and providing basic teaching equipment.

The campaign for the culture of teaching and learning which was launched in Soweto yesterday will not just need teachers to teach more effectively; students to learn more and parents to be more involved in the education of their children. It will also require that government, assisted by the private sector, provides the tools of learning and teaching.

In the first two-and-a-half years of democratic government we have laid a solid foundation for an education system that matches the ideals of visionaries like Sefaka Mapogo Makgatho

Let us work together to ensure that quality education is accessible to all South Africans

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: Hardcopy ; Source: ANC Archives, Office of the ANC President, Nelson Mandela Papers, University of Fort Hare. Accessioned on 27/01/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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