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Change the world


This article appeared in the Herald of 31 July 2018 written by Tremaine van Aardt

Innovate and adapt, or die.

This was one of the pertinent themes conveyed on the first day of the inaugural Youth Development Convention at Nelson Mandela University on Monday.

The convention hosted academics, higher education roleplayers and students from various institutions who focused on transforming the sector to produce innovative thinkers who can lead the fourth industrial revolution through solution-based thinking.

NMU vice-chancellor Professor Sibongile Muthwa said the convention was the first of its kind in SA and aimed to address the transition of higher education to be decolonised, equitable and inclusive.

“Students must be at the core of our work and as such institutions need to be transfigured to be student-centric and allow student voices to be heard at strategic platforms.

“Education on its own is not the only ingredient.

“We need a strategy to develop all aspects of society and this is the start,” Muthwa said.

“There are four defining challenges of youth.

“[First is] high volatility and fast-moving change in an uncertain world.

“[Second is] technological adoptions – known as the fourth industrial revolution.

“[Third is] the new normal of high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality amid the islands of opulence that have not been seen before.

“Finally, this is a period of disconnect between public institutions and broader development imperatives of society.”

Muthwa’s speech resonated with the panel of speakers who followed, including Centre of Politics and Research researcher Prince Mashele, Unisa’s Somadoda Fikeni and NMU health faculty dean Professor Lungile Pepeta.

They also included finance, economic development, environment and tourism MEC Oscar Mabuyane, Bay mayor Athol Trollip and Dr Themba Masondo from the Gauteng provincial government.

They echoed Muthwa’s concerns on the fourth industrial revolution and disconnect between institutions and society.

“The concerns of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels during the first industrial revolution were that a few would exploit the workforce masses.

“If they had to wake up today they would see they were completely wrong,” Mashele said.

“Machines and robots are doing everything and the skilled workforce is dwindling and being replaced.

“We live in an era where man has become god through science and technology. The fourth revolution is here.

“To survive the future, individuals need a mass multidisciplinary knowledge. Use knowledge as your commodity, because everything you studied can be Googled,” Mashele said.

“Your degree can’t be your only key to employment.

“You will become obsolete if you are unable to reinvent yourself.

“And sharpen your moral consciousness, because that is key to leaving a legacy – see yourself as a change agent.”

Fikeni, a core convener of the Indulamithi South Africa Scenarios 2030, said one of the prominent issues of South African democracy was its obsessions with headlines.

“We struggle to stick to topic for more than a month, which makes it hard to attain success.

“Successful countries such as China are there because of their consciously working towards their goal of being an economic player,” he said.

“As a country we are realising that in order to attain the country we want, it can’t be a spectator sport where we blame the government.”

It was important to be able to learn, unlearn and relearn to grow and adapt, Fikeni said.

“It is not your degree that will help you or what you learnt – because technology is outpacing policy, and the future requires you, the future managers, to think on your feet.

“We [the youth] spent so much time on what must fall – have we spent enough intellectual time thinking what must rise?”

Pepeta said the university’s health sciences faculty had embraced the era of transformation, particularly through its medical school set to be opened in 2020, which adopts an integrated societal approach throughout the degree.

Speaking via video conferencing, Mabuyane said the provincial government was putting innovators to the fore by being responsive to wellpackaged ideas.

Picture: FREDLIN ADRIAAN MESSAGE FOR YOUTH: Convention speakers Somadoda Fikeni, Prince Mashele and Lungile Pepeta

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