Speech delivered by Deputy Minister Rejoice Mabudafhasi on the occasion of the University of Johannesburg Science Centre 5 Years of Excellence Celebration, UJ Soweto Campus, Johannesburg

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31 Jan 2015

Programme director;

Vice-Chancellor and Principal, University of Johannesburg, Prof Ihron Rensburg;

Director of University of Johannesburg Soweto Science Centre and Associate Professor of Physics, Professor Azwinndini Muronga;

Representatives from SA Express;

Members of Soulbent project;

Distinguished guests;

The top Vhembe District Learner - Ms Avheani Makhado from Makakavhale Secondary School in Lwamondo;

UJ Soweto Science Centre learners, tutors and educators;

Gauteng Tshikona Cultural Dance and Tshigombela Dancers;

Members of the media;

Ladies and gentlemen

Sanibonani, Dumelang, Ndi matsheloni,

I am glad to be part of the University of Johannesburg Science Centre five (5) years of excellence celebrations which symbolises yet another milestone which seeks to take South Africa forward.

The founding father of our nation former President Nelson Mandela once said, ““Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

In his speech at the ruling party’s 103 years celebration, President of the Republic of South Africa, Jacob Zuma declared 2015 as the Year of the Freedom Charter.

The Freedom Charter states that “South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united in our diversity”.

It further states that “The Doors of Learning and Culture Shall be Opened! The government shall discover, develop and encourage national talent for the enhancement of our cultural life. All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all, by free exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands. The aim of education shall be to teach the youth to love their people and their culture, to honour human brotherhood, liberty and peace”.

ROLE OF INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE IN SCIENCES

Indigenous knowledge has been and continues to part of our daily lives. It has taught and guided our forefathers to survive throughout years immemorial.

Through indigenous knowledge certain plants are used as traditional medicines for health purposes especially in the rural areas. On the other hand the very same plants that are used for traditional medicines undergo scientific research and are taken to laboratories to be processed into medicine.  

The performance of Tshikona traditional dance that you have seen here early is part of indigenous knowledge. Tshikona is considered as the largest indigenous orchestra. Students learn about sound and notes produced by pipes but for generations our people have been practicing this by accurately measuring the notes of Tshikona.

The elders always told us about what should be done during lightning, seek shelter, do not use water, do not stand under isolated tress. While students learn about lightning at school our elders mastered the dos and don’ts of lighting through indigenous knowledge.

There is a greater need for University Faculties of Arts, Education and Science to work together. This will provide an opportunity to reflect on how far we have gone in affirming, recognizing, promoting various aspects of our intangible cultural heritage, creating a platform for the use of indigenous knowledge and science and ensuring that South Africans of all ages embrace, respect and take pride in our diverse cultures.

In South Africa; Intangible Cultural Heritage or Living Heritage is broadly defined as practices, representations, expressions, Indigenous Knowledge, skills, techniques, rituals, instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces therewith.  

Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) provides communities with a sense of identity, belonging, linking the past, through the present and the future. It also constitutes an important driving force for nation building and social cohesion.

THE IMPORTANCE OF READING AND COUNTING

The results of the 2014 Annual National Assessment (ANA) on literacy and numeracy testing involving grades 1 to 9 clearly indicate that we need to do more to encourage learners to develop a culture of reading and counting.

Learners who read a lot do not find difficulties during exams as understanding of questions in tests and exams is the key to giving the correct answers. This is also the case with mathematics and sciences.

The findings of the research conducted by the South African Book Development Council indicated that only 14% of South Africans are active book readers and a mere 5% of parents read to their children. It further indicated that 51% of households in South Africa did not have a single book in their home.

Illiteracy is amongst the national challenges facing our nation and it is our sector’s duty to correct this situation as we instil a culture of reading and writing. A book has the power to take you to different places, in different eras; it can motivate one and grow one’s knowledge.

As the Department of Arts and Culture, we are committed to the preservation, development and promotion of South African literature in all its forms and genres. These initiatives are augmented by the presence of library infrastructure in the various communities. Libraries play a pivotal role in giving communities access to reading material and are central in building a reading nation.

In pursuit to promote national identity, the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) is committed to install flags in every school to inculcate a spirit of patriotism, nation building and social cohesion.

The programme involves hoisting the National Flag in the school, the singing of the National Anthem, the recital of the Preamble of the Constitution, the distribution of hand held flags and publications on national symbols and the anthem.

In the words of Chris Van Wyk, the late Johannesburg author, in the poem from his collection “Time to Go Home”, he addresses the youth and urges the need for a culture of reading. And I quote:

“Read, brother, read.

The wax is melting fast.

The shadows become obdurate….

But remember it is not yet dark.

It is not yet dark.”

Let me end by the words of the iconic, world renowned poet, writer and human rights activist, the late Maya Angelou,

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him”.

I thank you.