Programme Director: Director-General, Mr. HM Mweli
Director-General: Rwanda Education Board, Mr. Gasana Janvier
Department of Arts and Culture, Dr Serote
UNICEF South Africa, Dr Panday-Soobrayan
CEO of the HSRC, Prof Crain Soudien
SARCI Chair for Teacher Education, Prof Yusuf Sayed,
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to have this opportunity to address this august occasion – the first-of-its-kind Teachers and Social Cohesion Roundtable since the 1994 democratic breakthrough. Representatives from international and national academic institutions, departmental officials, stakeholders and partners, it is a great privilege to welcome you to the Teachers and Social Cohesion Roundtable. It is not often, and certainly not mere coincidence that such a distinguished group have gathered to discuss the role of teachers as agents of social cohesion and peace building, in particular against the current climate of violence and conflict that are denying our children of their right to education and their aspirations for a successful future.
The wanton destruction of schools, some being razed to the ground as in Vuwani and the disruption of schooling by local communities across the country paints a grim picture of the lack of social cohesion in our country. We are all well aware that the culture of violent protests that had blossomed under apartheid has persisted in the post-apartheid era. This has been fuelled by crippling poverty and inequalities that has unfortunately caught up with us as a country. However, any instances in which communities resort to destroying their schools as an expression of their political rage must be condemned as a heinous criminal act. We cannot allow our children to be denied their education for short term political and social gains.
We acknowledge the high prevalence of social problems challenging our current democratic state, and as a government and society we look to schooling and education to provide the protective barriers for future generations. Education contributes to the development of social capital by increasing individual propensity to trust and be tolerant. Learning as a social activity has a strong influence on the development of shared norms and the value placed on tolerance and understanding within a community. More