Acceptance Speech by His Excellency President Jacob Zuma at the Peking University, Beijing
20 July 2012Prof. ZHOU Qifeng, President of Peking University;
Dr Li Yansong, Vice President of Peking University;
Members of the Alumni;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
In this auspicious Year of the Dragon, which signifies success, we have already witnessed major breakthroughs and historic achievement by the government and people of China, chief amongst which is the recent launch of the manned Shenzhou IX spacecraft and the successful docking with Tiangong-1.
The automatic and manual docking between the two spacecrafts marks an extraordinary achievement for China’s advanced space programme and a great leap forward towards its goal of building a space station by 2020.
This achievement is a clear manifestation of the academic excellence which is synonymous with this prestigious and world renowned Peking University.
It gives me great pleasure to be conferred an Honorary Professorship by this esteemed institution of higher learning.
The conferment of this Honorary Professorship today again reconfirms the warm relations between South Africa and China.
It also confirms what we have always known about China being a country inspired by the zest for knowledge through education.
We are inspired by the value attached to education in the analects of the ancient Chinese philosopher, Confucius, who stressed the importance of education and study as being fundamental to human progress.
We believethat today marks the beginning of a new chapter in the educational relations between our two countries.
Some of you will be aware that education in South Africa receives the biggest share of the country’s budget.
All South Africans have the right to a basic education, including adult basic education and further education so that education is available and accessible to all.
When comparing South Africa to other countries, education gets around 20% of total state expenditure, receiving the largest share of government spending.
More money is always needed to address the huge backlogs left by more than 300 years of colonial subjugation, and we appreciate that our international partners, likeChina, play a major role in this regard.
Furthermore, we have made education to be compulsory for all South Africans, from the age of 7 to the age of 15, as a way of empowering the people of South Africa.
Education is liberating and impacts on the people’s day-to-day needs and alleviates poverty.
Therefore, the education of the poorest of the poor remains a priority.
We introduced “no-fee” schools, which are institutions that receive all their required funding from the state and so do not have to charge school fees. These have been carefully identified in the country's most poverty-stricken areas.
Ladies and gentlemen, education is an instrument of change, as it changes a person for the better.
It is an empowering tool to individuals, communities, nations and societies.
History tells us that if used positively, education develops people and ensures that they are capacitated to change society for the better.
I say this because some have used education negatively.
In South Africa, to ensure more focus in the foundation stage we separated the Education department to two departments, namely, Basic Education and Higher Education.
This way specific attention is placed on improving grade 12 results, in both numbers and quality, amongst other positives.
Ladies and gentlemen, no country can succeed if it does not invest in its people through education.
Education and skills development are receiving the attention not only of government, but also from the private sector.
We would like to see the growing number of Chinese enterprises in South Africa partnering with us in empowering our people through skills development.
South Africa signed the National Skills Accord with business and labour, marking an important milestone in the implementation of our country’s New Growth Path, which was launched in July 2011.
This Accord commits us to increase the number of people who access training and grow the skills-base of the economy. The successful implementation of this Accord will enable South Africa to develop the scarce skills that are needed by the economy and present a good opportunity for Chinese business to also come on board.
It is our firm belief that strong cooperation in this area will do much to improve South Africa’s own achievement as we seek to become an economy that can respond to the challenges of the 21st century.
Let me also express my personal thanks to this institution and the broader leadership of the People’s Republic of China for deeming me worthy of this honour.
I take this as a symbol of the confidence the Chinese have in South Africa as an emerging country of the South, as well as a partner in the pursuit of a just international order.
We are here in Beijing primarily on a working visit at the invitation of President Hu Jintao, as well as attend the Fifth Ministerial Meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
We have had fruitful discussions aimed at enhancing South Africa’s bilateral relations with China, as well as solidifying the partnership between the African continent and the People’s Republic of China.
In August 2010, South Africa and China signed the Beijing Declaration for the Establishment of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
As strategic partners, we have already achieved important milestones in our relations, notably South Africa’s inclusion as a full member of the BRICS Forum; South Africa’s Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s visit to China in September 2011; and the visit to South Africa by Vice-President Xi Jinping in November 2010.
On all these occasions, South Africa and China have noted with satisfaction progress made on matters of mutual benefit.
Here I would like to extend a word of appreciation on behalf of the government and people of South Africa to China for the announcement yesterday of the 200 friendship scholarships awarded to South African scholars.
We are of the firm view that these scholarships would greatly assist in addressing the skills deficit that are required to boost the demands of our country’s growing economy.
The Partnership highlights, amongst others, the strengthening and expansion of co-operation in the fields of higher education and basic education.
Of particular importance is co-operation in basic education in the fields of Early Childhood Education and the training of educator trainers in mathematics, science and technology, and in the teaching of Mandarin Chinese at some schools, including the promotion of sharing experiences in the management and research outputs of specialized institutes and in skills training.
Both countries need to work hard to achieve these objectives.
Ladies and gentlemen,
South Africa welcomes China’s focused engagement with the African continent on education, science and skills development through the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).
As we are constantly reminded, South Africa’s future is inextricably linked to that of the entire African continent and, in this regard, it is important that Africans are empowered with knowledge at all levels of education.
The centrality of education to Africa’s sustainable development is acknowledged in the Sharm El- Sheikh Plan of Action, adopted at the 4th FOCAC Ministerial for the period 2010-2012. As South Africa begins its tenure as Co-Chair of the FOCAC for the period 2012-2018, it is important that China and Africa continue their shared commitment to education, and innovation through research and development.
When reflecting on Africa’s development, it is important to note that the continent’s greatest asset is its people. In this regard, their wellbeing must come first.
My government welcomes China’s shared commitment to this vision.
As the former and late President of Ghana, Doctor Kwame Nkrumah, said: “We measure our progress by the improvement in the health of our people; by the number of children in school, and by the quality of their education; by the availability of water and electricity in our towns and villages, and by the happiness which our people take in being able to manage their own affairs. The welfare of our people is our chief pride”.
Yesterday at the official opening ceremony of the 5th FOCAC Ministerial Conference, President Hu Jintao announced Five Priority areas.
These included 100 research exchange programmes between Chinese and African academic institutions and scholars over the next three years.
Furthermore they have agreed to implement the China-Africa Think Tank 10+10 Partnership Plan to select ten think tanks from China and Africa to work together.
The Beijing Declaration 2012-2015 also notes that the two sides will continue to promote the establishment and development of the Confucius Institutes and Confucius Class in Africa, as well as implement the 20+20 Cooperation Plan for Chinese and African institutions of higher education.
Another important multilateral forum where South Africa interacts with China is the BRICS Academic Forum, whose first session was hosted here in Beijing in March 2011.
The BRICS Academic Forum provides an opportunity for our academics to develop links with China and their counterparts from other BRICS member countries.
As BRICS leaders, we welcome academic exchanges and research being undertaken by BRICS academics and Think Tanks.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The 18th of July 2012 was former President Nelson Mandela’s birthday, coinciding with the Opening of the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) here in Beijing.
Many events were organised to mark this important United Nations-recognised day.
Nelson Mandela has always believed that education is an important and powerful tool that can be used to make the world a better place. As he stated “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
In 2012, and in line with the Nelson Mandela Day theme, the South African Department of Basic Education launched the 94+ Schools Infrastructure Project.
The primary objective of the “94+ Schools Project for Madiba” is to celebrate Mandela's 94th birthday by giving hope and dignity to children in at least 94 schools across South Africa through improving school infrastructure.
The campaign entails the eradication of the infrastructure backlog in primary schools in poor communities across the country, which will make a significant contribution to fulfilling Mandela's dream for every child in South Africa to be educated.
I consider this conferment bestowed upon me today by Peking University not only as a personal honour, but as a token of recognition and appreciation of the deepening and friendly relations between our two peoples in general.
More specifically I take it as recognition and appreciation of the successes achieved by the people of South Africa, led by the oldest liberation movement in the continent of Africa, the African National Congress (ANC).
I also take it as a recognition and appreciation of the quality of the leadership of the ANC since it was established in 1912.
Mr President, I also take it as acknowledgment of the high standard of the policies of the ANC government that has made many achievements since 1994.
All of us in the leadership of the ANC have made these accomplishments because of the unwavering support of the South African people.
I am genuinely humbled that this recognition is done through me as the leader of this organisation, and as the leader of the democratic government of South Africa.
In conclusion, I wish the University of Peking community and the Chinese nation prosperity.
I thank you.