It was the first time I had heard of the Future of Education Summit and I was more elated to see that two of my favourite companies Forbes Africa and CNBC Africa were partners of the event. But the best surprise was learning that Advocate Thuli Madonsela was going to be a keynote speaker, a woman who I greatly admire. Although the event began a little later than scheduled, the MC Alexander Leibner who is Head of ABN Event Productions, managed to entertain and keep us laughing throughout the event.
Advocate Thuli Madonsela
I was first in awe that I was in the same room as the former Public Prosecutor but it was her ability to first listen to the Premier of Gauteng, Mr David Makhura, whilst simultaneously adapting her speech to include key points he had spoken about that I was intrigued by. The Premier highlighted the importance of integrating technological advances into the school curriculum; shifting the mind-set of students from consumers to producers; and the investment the government is making to see this transformation happen.
Advocate Madonsela extended on these points and how education changes the trajectory of one’s life. She framed the topic of the school curriculum to be more inclusive through the use of technology, where distant learning through hubs in townships could assist students to still receive the same level of teaching as those in universities. Furthermore, she spoke on the importance of students learning how to build new technologies themselves instead of them focusing on old technologies that constantly need to be fixed or adapted to keep up with present day adversities. This would help to shift the mind-set from consumer to producer and create a mind-set of students being able to empower themselves to become innovators, inventors or entrepreneurs.
Shifting of mind-set was a key part of Advocate Madonsela’s keynote address. Two key points she made; “Violence is the language of the disempowered” and “We educate our children to get a job. That’s disempowering.” The point on the violence really resonated with the audience when she said it. It brought to light the truth of how a person who feels marginalized will retaliate through violence so that they too can be heard through a tool they understand. She made the example of how many of the students who participated in the #FeesMustFall protest were students who had been excluded from universities for outstanding fees. They ended up using violence because they wanted to be heard and they also had nothing to lose.
The second point really isn’t an easy one to address since the mind-set stems from a past that the country is still healing from. Most parents believe that their children have a far better chance of furthering themselves through a job, it’s a source of perceived security and it provides a source of income that enables one to be ‘free’. Advocate Madonsela acknowledged this but spoke on how it disempowers the child to assume that their only purpose is to seek for a job instead of building a business that can contribute to the economy and communities. A mind-set shift is one that she acknowledges will take time to break away from the old, but with the exponential growth and changes of technology she believes education will break down the old notions.
Then the last point of government’s planned investments is one she believes is not the sole responsibility of the government. She commended ABN Event Productions on their progressive conversation through the Summit and how this was an important event to bridge the gap between private and public sector. She spoke on how a community can only be furthered by addressing the educational gaps that have caused people to develop a language of violence. Furthermore, she highlighted the importance of making education more purpose driven as opposed to teaching irrelevant ideologies that don’t serve the community or education.
The future of education
Truthfully, the path to changing the educational trajectory of South Africa has a long way to go but it has the right people at the helm working to make that a reality. The Summit had the perfect blend of educators, investors, private and public influencers to address issues whilst offering viable solutions to our educational problem. Time will tell what becomes of these conversations.
Love and Happiness,