At the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment's graduation on Monday 15 December, UCT Chancellor Graça Machel had some particularly inspiring words for new graduates – and a challenge for the class of 2014.
About the diversity and quality of the class of 2014
"What a class! I am really proud as part of UCT to have presided over such an outstanding class. I don't remember having had so many first class and honours – so many, many, many – in engineering. I don't remember witnessing such diversity – in race, in gender. Together – South Africans, Africans, citizens of other parts of the world. I think we can, with pride and no doubt, say that UCT is validating its mission to pledge for excellence in teaching and research."
About the teachers who have given so much to so many students
"I also want to say to our academic staff: it wouldn't be possible without your determination, without your commitment to quality and excellence ... These are the results of your work. And we as a South African society are indebted to you. And we want to thank you, thank you and thank again."
About UCT's contribution to society
"South Africa is 20 years old in 2014. We started 20 years ago, immediately after our freedom, to look and find better ways of not only providing space for our young people to acquire knowledge and expertise and values, but also to be able to give back to society what society has entrusted this institution to become. In our 20 years, despite all the challenges we still face, we can keep our heads up, and say yes, we are responding to challenges of South Africa, we are responding to challenges of our continent, and we are contributing to other societies all over the world."
On education as the great leveller
"We know that we are still short of engineers. But this [graduation] is an indication that we are getting there. We are having the results of the seeds which we have planted at the beginning, even in children who are coming from disadvantaged schools. Now, they are able to excel with the same quality [as that of] children coming from any other school in this country. And this is something that I would really like us to celebrate. Because, whatever we can say of inequality, the levelling field is where knowledge is available and provided in equal terms to children – regardless of their class, regardless of their origin ... This is a levelling field!'
"Freedom is not only producing mediocrity. Freedom is producing excellence. And it is here. This is pride, this is the example."
Her challenge to the class of 2014
"But I want now to challenge you: in 2014 South Africa is facing huge challenges. Our economy is not growing. Actually, it is declining. Those who started some time back this journey for economic development – they have done what they could. Now it's your turn. You are equipped, very well equipped. And you are going to face the workplace of your choice. Some will be employed, others are going to start their own companies, others are going to ... innovate in different ways. The message to you is: don't sit at the sidelines and criticise, and see what is wrong only. Yes, identify what is wrong, but more importantly, identify what has to be done, and be done right. The future is yours. It is really in your hands."
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