Change the world


“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

This famous Nelson Mandela quote is a powerful illustration of the immense value the global icon placed on education. It is this very statement by the former president, made in July 2003, that the Faculty of Education's colloquium on 19-20 July seeks to interrogate as a means to understand its contextual relevance in the 21st century.

This statement has found broad resonance within the South African society, on the African continent as well as globally. In a world faced with growing inequality, changing political landscapes, armed conflicts, racial and gender tensions, there is a need to explore a number of critical questions as they relate to Mandela’s 2003 statement.

The colloquium, themed Repositioning our Understanding of the “weapon” Education explores, among others, whether Mandela and his contemporaries would be satisfied that education is achieving its intended objective in the 21st century or if the country has reached the stage where the understanding of the statement needs to be deconstructed and reconstructed, to speak to the challenges of the 21st century.

Opening the colloquium with an address that doubly served as the official launching of the University’s yearlong Centenary Programme, Vice-Chancellor Prof Sibongile Muthwa said rooting the programme on the academic, scholarly and engagement enterprise was the best contribution the institution could make towards preserving and nurturing Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

“Locating our Mandela Centenary programme in the academic enterprise resonates with the importance Mandela placed on education, illustrated so emphatically with his famous declaration in July 2003 that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”,” she said.

“This insightful declaration reflected Mandela’s profound belief, arising from his personal and communal experiences, that education could be a tool for people to transform their lives and those of their children. Nelson Mandela, and the generation of South African and African leaders he was part of, moved from peasant and rural lives, to become leaders of organisations, of society, and of nations.

“Here we would remember not only Mandela, but also his contemporaries, courageous men and women who inspire us, who give us hope, and who – against all odds – made it possible to be where we are today.

“Through the lives of these historical figures we can see why Mandela believed education is “the great engine of personal (and national) development”; and why he said: “It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”

Pupils from various Nelson Mandela Bay schools helped launch the Centenary Celebrations Programme with kites and a Mandela 100 banner, singing “happy birthday” to the man considered one of the founders of a democratic South Africa.

Delegates to the colloquium – who fell under the categories of formal, informal and non-formal education sector – put forward a number of questions and possible solutions towards the repositioning of the understanding of education “weapon” for meaningful development in the sector.

Delivering the keynote address, titled Understanding the Context of “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”, Chancellor Dr Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi outlined the trends in education over the decades to contextualise the Mandela statement.

“It is not a secret that education was used by the colonial authorities and apartheid regime to divide people and to attempt to ensure that the majority of the population would be permanently assigned a place of inferiority in South Africa,” she said.

“The manner in which education was being used to entrench inequality and to oppress the masses was something that was recognised by those struggling for our liberation. A huge contribution to the fight against the colonial and apartheid education system was made by teacher organisations.”

The Chancellor traced the trends in education, particularly the resistance by those fighting for a socially just society, leading up to the time when South Africa welcomed democracy.

“Faced with the devastating effects of three centuries of colonialism and apartheid, the architects of our democracy saw education as one of the tools that would transform society, lift people out of poverty and create greater equality. The aspirations of the Freedom Charter found expression in our Constitution and in policy developed for a post-apartheid education system,” she said.

“This brief overview of the salient features of the evolution of our education system would be incomplete without mention of the 2015 #RhodesMustFall and the FeesMustFall movements. In a very real sense these movements focused renewed attention on the incomplete transformation of South African society.”

The second day of the colloquium sees continued discussions on education as a weapon, with an exhibition from representatives from the three targeted education sector categories – formal, informal and non-formal.

Renowned author and psychology professor, Anderson J Franklin deliver’s the day’s keynote address on Constructing a collective declaration around: “Education as a weapon for the 21st Century and beyond”.

Centenary launch kids: Pupils from various Bay schools launch Nelson Mandela University’s Centenary Celebrations Programme at the Education Faculty colloquium, themed Repositioning our Understanding of the “weapon” Education.

Anthem moment: (from left) Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education, Dr Muki Moeng, Chancellor Dr Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and Vice-Chancellor Prof Sibongile Muthwa observe the singing of the national anthem ahead of the start of the Education Colloquium, themed Repositioning our Understanding of the “weapon” Education.

Stage moment: (from left) Executive Dean of the Faculty of Education, Dr Muki Moeng, Chancellor Dr Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi and Vice-Chancellor Prof Sibongile Muthwa share a light moment on stage.


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