Former President Thabo Mbeki addressed the students at the University of Stellenbosch about ‘The role of African Students in the light of recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya’ in 2011. He made the following proposal which I believe is directly relevant for us ‘youth’ as well.
He appealed to students at Stellenbosch (and us) to always remember that we have an obligation to take advantage of the opportunity we have as University students, youth in general and therefore Africa’s nascent intelligentsia:
· to empower yourselves to become the quality intelligentsia our Continent needs, by diligently applying yourselves to the exciting task of studying;
· to act to ensure that as you inherit the future as leaders of the peoples of Africa, you will have done your best to help build a better continent;
· always to honour the truth, to respect ‘the greatest unwashed’ who are our mothers and fathers, and to have the courage fearlessly to stand up for what is right and just, ready to present reasoned arguments in this regard;
· always to question and challenge even what is conveyed to you by all and sundry as established truths, acting both as young people and students who have the opportunity to re-discover anew all truths about the human and material worlds we inhabit;
· never to abuse the fact of your greater access to knowledge to position yourselves as a corrupt and parasitic segment of African society; and,
· never to be tempted to use your learning to sugar-coat a deadly virus of false knowledge you can impart to the Africans, in what our Nigerian fellow Africans would describe as giving poisoned kola nuts you offer to friends, pretending that these were but the traditional African gifts of friendship.
He concluded by quoting an eminent Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, who once said . . .Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children!!
Happy youth month to all the youth of South Africa. . . .