Graduatiion day

2008-04-18 00:00

THE practical training received at agricultural colleges has had such a positive impact on my farming life that attending diploma day at Cedara College on Saturday was a must.

In addition, the students who have graduated from Cedara over the past 100 years have had a huge impact on commercial farming, especially on our eastern seaboard, and the new students have an equal responsibility.

Previous diploma ceremonies started exactly on time and lasted exactly 60 minutes. But we are in a state of change or transformation in our country so one cannot expect things to carry on as before.

On Saturday, we were all seated by 10 am and proceedings started at 11 am and carried on until 1.30 pm. Quite a change and initially difficult to accept.

However, after getting a bit scratchy having to wait for the start, the next few hours were filled with singing, speeches and much ululating. The atmosphere grew on me and I realised that this was a time of celebration by the students and their families.

It was obvious that graduating with an agriculture certificate or diploma was, indeed, a time for celebration. Strict timing was not important and it was a time to relax and enjoy. This proved quite difficult for one, like myself, who is used to strict time schedules.

It was very much like the words of a psychology professor who explained the feelings some of us had under a new government 14 years ago. There was disbelief, rejection, fear, followed by understanding, acceptance and appreciation that the paradigms of the past were gone and that there was a new and different future to look towards. This graduation ceremony took me to a new level of appreciation.

Sideq Adam, the new acting head of the Department of Agriculture in KwaZulu-Natal, welcomed the guests and students.

Sivelile Nompozolo, Cedara College principal, said that his mandate was to produce quality students and said that there are 207 students at the college, and that 30 higher certificates and 33 diplomas would be awarded.

In addition, Cedara College has trained 4 300 people in 31 short courses last year and soon there would be training towards a bachelor of agriculture degree offered at the college. There was also a need to provide training in life skills, including driving, he said.

Thomas Gwanya, the director- general of the Department of Land Affairs, is very aware that graduates often have difficulty finding employment and to alleviate this, his department will be employing 450 agricultural graduates for four years before releasing them into the industry.

Gwanya stated that 4,8 million hectares of land has been transferred to “new farmers” and during the next two years, five million hectares will be delivered to 10 000 recipients with the objective of delivering 21 million hectares by 2014 and at the same time achieving a 15% increase in productivity.

In his message to the graduates, the MEC for KwaZulu-Natal Agriculture Mtholephi Mthimkhulu, gave an enthusiastic and eloquent presentation (no doubt a result of his original training in teaching).

He emphasised a few important points: “Agriculture is not for the weak, dull or lazy … There is a need to improve literacy and numeracy through bridging courses …You only get out what you put in … Fight against laziness and do not rely on social grants because they are not sus-tainable … China has increasing productivity and often commercial agriculture is practised on an area the size of a football field … There is a need to be self-employed … Without food all our efforts at developing South Africa will be futile … We need to fully utilise all land in KwaZulu-Natal.”

Andries van Niekerk was dux and Thokozani Zuma was awarded top student in high grade.

The extensive training obtained at Cedara is clearly indicated by the 40 awards presented as well as the wide range of qualifications held by the academic staff.

The inspirational message by the MEC helped me to appreciate the proceedings and, for a short while, hide my concern regarding the question of whether “land delivery” and “increased productivity” are compatible.

I am convinced that the transformation at graduation ceremonies is a good message to all South Africans to relax and enjoy the positive events in our lives.

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