Speech by Minister Paul Mashatile at the Annual Dube Memorial Lecture, University of Kwazulu Natal, Pietermaritzburg

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29 Aug 2012

Director of Ceremonies
Professor Malegapuru William Makgoba, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal
Professor Joseph Ayee:  Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head of UKZN’s College of Humanities
Ms Lulu Dube, Mr. Zenzele Dube and Mr. Langa Dube, Members of the family of Dr. J.L Dube,
Rev Thulani Ndlanzi, the General Secretary of the United Congregational Church of South Africa (UCCSA), which is Dr. Dube’s church
Dr. Douglas Dziva, from the KZN Christian Council
Professor Johannes Smit, Dean and Head of UKZN’s School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics
Ms Saphetha Sibhida, MEC for Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation in KZN
Academic and non-academic staff of the University
Mr. Sibusiso Xaba, the Director General of the Department of Arts and Culture
The leadership of Staff Trade Unions
The leadership of the Student Representative Council
The leadership of Political Parties here present
Guests of honour
Ladies and Gentlemen
All Protocol observed:

I am honoured to be afforded the opportunity to deliver this year’s annual memorial lecture in honour of Dr. John Langalibalele Dube, Umafukuzela.

I would like to thank the leadership of the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal for having chosen “John Dube’s Challenge to Education and the Humanities in the 21st Century”, as the topic for this Lecture. 

This is an appropriate topic; befitting the stature of this great son of our people for his unwavering commitment to education and the Humanities.

The topic also resonates with the vision of this University which has positioned itself to become the premier university of African scholarship.

Your vision, which could be summarised as the pursuit of excellence in education to advance the contribution of the African to the development of the broader society, echoes what Dr. Dube stood for.

Here the words Dr. Dube penned in a pamphlet in 1892 readily come to mind;
“Then shall Africa take her place as a nation among nations, then shall her sons and daughters sing aloud….Let us Arise and Shine, for our light has come.”

I am also humbled to be delivering this Lecture in the year in which we celebrate the centenary of the African National Congress; the oldest liberation movement in Africa. 

As we know Dr. Dube was elected, in absentia, to lead the ANC as its first President General.

Two other equally capable candidates, Edward Tsewu and Sefako Makgatho could have led the South African Native National Congress which later became the African National Congress but deferred this honour to Dr. Dube. 

To us this is an indication of the respect that Dr. Dube commanded and enjoyed among his peers.

Among other words of praise for Dr. Dube are those of his fellow poet and writer, Dr. B.W. Vilakazi who declared in 1946 that Dube was; “a great, if not the greatest, black man of the missionary epoch in South Africa.”

Referring to Dr. Dube’s election as the founding President of the ANC, the late Comrade Looksmart Makhanda noted: 

In this way, Dube became a symbol of national unity against colonial domination not only for our people but also for our brother peoples in the neighbouring African states, who were represented at the founding conference of the ANC and beyond.”

To this day, Dr. Dube’s memory maintains a towering presence in our midst. 

Indeed as this generation of South Africans we are proud to be standing on the shoulders of this great patriot.

Ladies and Gentlemen, over the years and in particular this year; the year of the Centenary of the ANC, a lot has been said about this great leader and giant of our people, who had many outstanding qualities.

However for the purposes of this Lecture, allow me to focus on Dr. Dube the influential man of letters; a poet, a journalist and writer.

Also relevant to this Lecture is Dr. Dube’s role as a philosopher, a teacher, a priest and a community activist.

All of these attributes position Dr. Dube firmly as a visionary, a practitioner in the humanities and an intellectual of note.

It is therefore fitting that during this Lecture we draw lessons from Dr. Dube’s contribution in education and the Humanities.
As we draw lessons from the life and times of Dr. Dube, we do so fully aware that the conditions that prevailed during his time were different from the reality of the 21st Century, in which we find ourselves.

However Dr. Dube’s vision especially with regards to his focus on education and the Humanities remains a useful guide to us today as we navigate through the challenges of our time.

I will argue in this Lecture that education and the humanities have an important role in the 21st Century and beyond as was the case during the missionary epoch which shaped the life and times of Dr. Dube.


Ladies and gentlemen, we learn from Dr. Dube that there is no substitute for education.

We must continue to produce an educated society because of the importance of knowledge in all aspects of human interaction and all aspects of production.
Education and knowledge also equip us with what is needed to compete successfully with the rest of the world.
All of this is particularly important because the 21st Century requires that we be equipped with knowledge and with particular skills. 

The state, therefore, must continue to intervene and make more resources available for education.
Guided by Dr. Dube’s vision on the education of the African Child, the ANC government continues to prioritize the provision of quality education.

Dr. Dube argued for the education of the African Child because he believed that in order for an African to be treated as an equal citizen, he or she needs to acquire the necessary education and skills.

As a practical contribution towards ensuring that the African child was educated and equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills, he founded Ohlange Institute in 1901.

He founded Ohlange with meager resources mainly from donations that he mobilized as part of his pastoral duties.

During the time of Dr. Dube the Church played an important role in the development of society, in particular in promoting education.

Dr. Dube himself established churches and preaching stations during his early years.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the kind of education and society envisioned by Dr. Dube was based on the principles of service to humanity, self reliance, humility and dignity for all. 

Influenced by Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute, Dr. Dube sought to develop a society characterized by true humility.

In their book Egonomics, published in 2007, Marcum and Smith argue that true humility is intelligent self-respect, which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves.

They argue that true humility makes us modest by reminding us how far we have come, short of what we can be.
Whilst we agree that we must respond to the challenges of the 21st Century by producing skills required by the knowledge economy and the state, the philosophical basis of our education system should perhaps still be guided by the principle of true humility.

It is my considered view that infusing the principle of true humility in our education system will ensure that we produce well rounded, knowledgeable individuals.

These are individuals with a sense of social responsibility and are equipped to contribute towards the creation of a truly caring, peaceful and prosperous South African society.
We must do all of this as part of taking forward the work started by Dr. Dube on the education of the African Child.

In specific terms we must uproot the odious philosophical underpinnings of the apartheid education system.

The apartheid regime’s so-called education system was premised on the assumption that; it was not necessary to educate the African child.

This was because the regime at the time was determined to ensure that Africans would not develop past them being “hewers of wood and drawers of water.”

It is against this background that we see it as an urgent task to build an education system that will truly liberate the intellectual potential of the African child, to participate fully in the transformation of our society.

It is in this context that in preserving the vision and the legacy of Dr. Dube we must continue to condemn any actions that undermine our programmes aimed at providing quality education and teaching in our schools and institutions of higher learning.

We reiterate that learners must be in class, on time and learning throughout the school day.

Equally teachers must be in class, on time and teaching for the entire school day.

We wish to argue that this principle should also apply to students in institutions of higher learning.  

Government has an important role to play in creating conditions that are suitable for effective teaching and learning to take place.
Going forward, government must provide free education to all learners up to Grade 12, especially learners from poor households.

Government should also continue to provide bursaries and loans to students at tertiary level.

Working together with civil society we must develop a comprehensive strategy to eradicate illiteracy in our country.   

Ladies and Gentlemen; education is Life! 

When Dr. Dube founded Ohlange Institute he was determined to make a significant and practical contribution to the development and preservation of Life; we must not fail him, come what may! 


Ladies and Gentlemen, it is common knowledge that as a result of under-funding, many faculties in the Humanities are shrinking in the recruitment of professionals and in the size of students enrolling in the field.

In an article titled:  “The state of Humanities in Post Apartheid South Africa – A quantitative story” V. Pillay, from the University of Pretoria, and K. Yu, an independent researcher, outline the nature of the challenges facing the Humanities in South Africa post 1994.

Pilay and Yu show that undergraduate enrolment for all disciplines increased by 50.1% from 1999 to 2007, while enrolment for Humanities dropped by 20.3% in the same period.

During the same period, the percentage of undergraduate graduations in Humanities to the total student graduation figure dropped from 12.6% in 1999 to 6.3% in 2007. 

Though the enrollment numbers for Humanities at post graduate level showed an increase of around 10.3%, this increase was smaller compared to enrollments in other disciplines.

Graduations for post graduates have also followed a pattern similar to the undergraduate one.

Interestingly Pilay and Yu lament the fact that consumerism and the dictates of the market appear to be responsible for the current state of the Humanities in South Africa.

Indeed we find ourselves in an era where because programmes offered in the Humanities are less demanded by the market they are therefore likely to be viewed by both parents and students as “unnecessary indulgences.”

This notion is reinforced among others by some of the conclusions drawn by the Africa Competitiveness Report of 2011; which argues that;

  “The emphasis should be on moving away from an emphasis on social sciences and the humanities to one focusing on science, engineering, mathematics and entrepreneurship…”

We don’t agree with this conclusion. In our view we should strive for a balance between the sciences.

To its credit the Report makes reference to the need for tertiary education systems to move away from the disciplinary silo approach and allow students to take courses from many disciplines before declaring a major. 

The Report argues that this is necessary for allowing students to get a more rounded education.
Ladies and Gentlemen, one of the defining features of the era in which we live, the 21st Century, is the advent of the knowledge society; an integral part of which is knowledge production and dissemination.

According to Dr. Richard G. Jewell, Humanities are;

“the part of education, of knowledge that makes for a more refined sense of knowing, thinking and finer feeling. They are the ocean of all of humanity's deeper, more inner awareness, knowledge, and sensitivity.”

The argument by Dr. Jewell suggests that those who pursue Humanities indeed want to dig deeper into knowledge and awareness in order to contribute to the production of new knowledge and, subsequently, to the development of society.

This argument is further strengthened by our own understanding that; it is through the Humanities that we are able to record our past and, with an understanding of it, make sense of our present and plan better for the future.

It is through the Humanities that we are able to answer the following critical questions:  What is knowledge?  And how is knowledge acquired?

We must continue to find answers to these questions, because it is exactly what drawing lessons from Dr. Dube’s vision and teachings leads us to.
This we say because it was part of Dr Dube’s mission to ensure that the African child acquires more knowledge in order to be able to use it to advance his or her contribution to the development of broader society.

As part of responding to the challenges facing the humanities in the 21st Century, last year the Academy of Science of South Africa published a Consensus Study on the State of Humanities in our country.

The Study made very important recommendations which I fully agree with and support.

The recommendations include that there must be a restructuring of funding for advanced degrees, doctorates in particular, through national funding agencies such as the National Research Foundation (NRF).

This funding must enable full-time study for candidates in the Humanities.

There is also a need to accelerate the establishment of prestigious Research Chairs and Centres of Excellence in the Humanities.

This should involve appointing leading Professors of the Humanities with two clear missions: the pursuit of excellence in Humanities research and the building of capacity for the next-generation of scholars in the Humanities.
It is encouraging to note that the work done by the Academy of Science of South Africa has been embraced and included in the work of the National Planning Commission.

The Commission agrees that the Humanities are important in understanding some of the difficult challenges our country faces such as transformation, violence, corruption, the gap between the rich and the poor and the issue of race.

Furthermore, the NRF reports that South Africa has maintained a steady growth in Research and Development (R&D) expenditure over the past decade, with gross expenditure on research and development (GERD) growing five-fold from R4 billion in 1997/98 to R21 billion in 2008/09.

The ratio of GERD as a percentage of GDP has also expanded over this period, from 0.69 % to 0.92 %, indicating a growing role of R&D within the economy.

The central question however is, what is the percentage of total R&D that is dedicated to Humanities?

This is an important question because it refers to knowledge production, and humanities are about embarking on a process of enquiry systematically and methodically.

As we continue to make a case for the increased role of the Humanities in the development of our society, we must also be able to develop practical solutions that are geared towards increasing investment in research and development within the Humanities.

Ladies and Gentlemen; to us the Humanities are also about telling our stories, articulating ideas, and using words that help us make sense of our lives and our world. 

They are about exploring and explaining the human condition. They are concerned with human thought, relations and feelings.

Humanities equip learners with important skills such as critical thinking, deep and thorough going analysis of events, the ability to view various incidences and occurrences as part of a whole.

Indeed Humanities contribute to the development of a well-rounded individual.

It is through education in Humanities that we can be able to understand the origins, the relevance and applicability of humanist values such as Ubuntu.

These values inspire us to work towards a society based on human solidarity and a society that fully embraces the notion that umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – I am because you are!

Dr. Dube’s contribution to the written word includes Ukuziphatha kahle and Umuntu Isitha Sakhe Uqobo Lwakhe; both of which articulated a progressive value system that he sought to infuse in the African community.

In the present era where education at Universities is increasingly about producing students whose primary goal is to acquire skills only relevant for them to be absorbed in the market, we can learn lessons on the important role of Humanities from Dr. Dube.

We learn from the life of Dr. Dube that he saw Humanities as part of a broader set of skills needed to enhance an individual’s contribution to society.

Although Ohlange was established initially as an industrial school it later embraced other disciplines in education, including music.

The establishment of Ohlange is significant in two ways. Firstly in and of itself it was an act of defiance and an act of struggle.

This we say because Ohlange was established after the demise of the Industrial department of the American Zulu Mission School.

When Dr Dube established Ohlange to implement his views on practical education and affirm his philosophy of self-help he knew that he was putting himself on a collision cause with those in power at the time.

In fact the name Ohlange, which means a place where people meet, marked the planting of a seed towards an inclusive future for all South Africans, something which the authorities at the time were against. 

Ohlange was Dr. Dube’s response to the skills requirements at the time.

It was an intervention aimed at enabling African people to acquire the skills that would ensure their survival in “the market” at the time.

The establishment of Ohlange was also an expression of agitation by the people of the area, happening, as it did, in the era of the formation of the independent churches and political organizations.

From this it can be seen that Dr. Dube, an accomplished practitioner in the humanities, understood the human condition and sought concrete solutions to transform it.

His practice of the Humanities did not blind him to the realities around him.

In fact it equipped him to respond in a comprehensive way to the conditions he and his people found themselves in.

Armed with lessons from the life of Dr. Dube, we want to argue that the study of disciplines such as philosophy, sociology and history is the foundation required for the understanding of the development and advancement of society.

We also maintain that other disciplines such as the science, mathematics, engineering, and so forth, are critical because we indeed need engineers and doctors to ensure the development of a capable state and a successful and prosperous society.

However, if as a society we do not invest in the Humanities and equip our institutions of learning accordingly, we are not going to succeed in building this capable developmental state as well as a successful and prosperous society.

In other words we need teachers, philosophers, academics, artists as much as we need doctors and engineers and other scientists.

Dr. Dube was also a pioneer who contributed to the development of Zulu Literature as he wrote extensively in this language.

He was the first biographer in African Literature, having written the biography of the Zulu royal family and later that of the founder of the Amanazaretha Church, Shembe.

The newspaper he founded, Ilanga laseNatali was also a published in isiZulu.

He understood the importance of using and developing indigenous languages for the affirmation of one’s cultural identity, while equally appreciating other cultures.

We also wish to make the point that the establishment and strengthening of language faculties in Universities is critical in the ongoing agenda of nation building and promoting social inclusion.

We align ourselves with the view that with time, as a country, we must reach a point where the goal of mother-tongue education becomes a reality. 

As the Department of Arts and Culture, in taking forward the vision of Dr. Dube on languages, and informed by Section 6 of the Constitution, which speaks to the promotion of indigenous languages, we tabled for adoption by Parliament, the Use of Official Languages Bill.

We are delighted that all parties in the National Assembly adopted this Bill.

We are also encouraged that the Select Committee on Education and Recreation at the National Council of Provinces deliberated on and finalized the Bill.

The Bill is now ready to be tabled at the NCOP and should soon become law.   

This Bill will allow South Africans to receive government services and interact with government in the languages of their choice.

This, we believe, is a major step in promoting multi-lingualism and ensuring that those languages whose use was diminished in the past, will now be promoted and developed. 

We are also working with the Pan South African Languages Board to strengthen their capacity to implement their mandate of promoting multi-lingualism in our country.

We are also finalizing the Language Practitioners’ Bill which will coordinate, monitor and regulate the language profession, making it possible for those who practice in this field to have the requisite skills and be properly supported.

As part of implementing our Mzansi Golden Economy Strategy, through which we seek to enhance the contribution of the arts, culture and heritage sector in the South African economy, as well as in building an inclusive society, we are making progress in bringing back arts education in schools, including at Early Childhood Development level.

This work, which we are undertaking together with the Department of Basic Education, will involve the deployment of 3 000 arts facilitators in public schools.

We are also forging ahead with the establishment of the National Skills Academy for the Cultural and Creative Industries, to become a Center of Excellence providing a platform for our artists to develop their talent, perfect their skills and to excel in what they do.

As we implement this initiative we will work with all training providers in the sector, more importantly with universities like the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the fact that as the Department of Arts and Culture, we are implementing the Mzansi Golden Economy Strategy is an indication of the trust we have in the Humanities, especially disciplines such as visual and performing arts, books and publishing, heritage and museum studies.

Indeed the implementation of this Strategy requires that we pay attention to the task of making available a consistent supply of knowledge and skills necessary to ensure the sustainability of our sector. 

In this regard we are delighted with the partnerships we have established with some universities to train practitioners in our sector.

Currently we are providing bursaries to more than 200 students at various Universities to pursue both undergraduate and postgraduate studies in heritage and museum studies.

We have also partnered with Rhodes University on a programme to train heritage professionals within government.
In addition we provided bursaries to 349 students studying various languages at University level.

We have also designed programmes to develop, promote and protect previously marginalized official languages of South Africa.

These programmes include language planning and development, translation and editing, terminology coordination and development as well as human language technologies.

We have budgeted R4 million through which we will partner with various Universities to support undergraduate programmes in languages.

Going forward such partnerships must be expanded, deepened and strengthened.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to take this opportunity to assure all of you that the ANC government will do everything necessary to defend and deepen the proud legacy of Dr. Dube and his generation of leaders.

We will abide by the principles and values they taught us and we will continue to emulate their example.

I trust that this input will assist as we debate ways of strengthening collaboration between the sciences in our quest to produce a well-rounded individual; who knows the importance of contributing to the development of society.

I would like to thank the leadership of this University for giving us the opportunity to make a contribution. 

The Department of Arts and Culture will continue to partner with the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Dube Foundation on some of the initiatives that you are currently working on to keep the Legacy of Dr. J.L. Dube alive.

May the Spirit of Umafukuzela live long!