Premier on Opening of Commonwealth Academy: Vital Opportunities for SA Youth
"The vast majority of young South Africans who travel and live for a time abroad remain fiercely loyal and patriotic - committed to later return to South Africa and inevitably to invest their overseas experiences and education to help build the success of our country." These were the words of Western Cape Premier, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, delivering the keynote address at South Africa House in London at the celebrations of the official opening of the new Commonwealth Academy in Leytonstone.
"Although a small number of young South Africans have chosen to flee their country because they find the new South Africa difficult to accept, they are by far the minority. Most young South Africans abroad are keenly aware of their identity and are part of the new wave of young global citizens," said the Premier. "International knowledge, global understanding and educational opportunities of the highest calibre are helping to equip those fortunate enough to experience them, with world class skills, and they will add value to South Africa upon their return. The new Commonwealth Academy here in London will play a key part in helping our young South Africans to get the most out of their time in the United Kingdom."
"Quoting South African poet Keorapetse Kgositsile the Premier said: "Education serves to prepare people to be clear about their roles, to tap their potential so that their lives can be meaningful; so they can better consolidate their resources and be productive in, and useful to, their communities."
Speaking about the needs that the new Academy will address, the Premier added: "It is imperative that young South Africans abroad spend their time wisely. We know that those aged between 19 and 27 who travel to the UK often wish to stay beyond the two years available on working holiday visas - and often try to do so on student visas. The problem has been the requirement for these students to physically attend a campus for at least 15 hours a week - with costs well beyond what most young South Africans can afford. Instead of enrolling in repeated IT courses of limited value simply to meet this requirement, the Commonwealth Academy now provides a real alternative."
Opened for enrolment on 1 November the Commonwealth Academy offers a computer campus in London where initially up to 300 students from Commonwealth countries like South Africa will be able to study for complete South African degrees with universities and technikons like the Universities of Stellenbosch, Potchefstroom and the Free State as well as Pretoria Technikon already involved in the project. It will also make it possible for students who have started their degrees or diplomas in South Africa to travel to the UK and to continue their studies without interruption at the Academy for a fraction of the cost of a UK institution.
"We also believe that the strong South African links of the Academy will even further strengthen the bond between the young South Africans who study there and their South African pride," said the Premier. "From the side of the Western Cape Government we congratulate the Directors of the Academy, the educational institutions involved and all the other stake-holders for this innovative and important addition to the overseas experience of our youth. As Government we are well aware that the key to realising the potential of our youth abroad is to ensure economic growth and job creation within South Africa and this remains one of our most important priorities."
Turning to the issue of overseas voting in next year's election, the Premier said: "In the same way that the Commonwealth Academy will strengthen the links between loyal young South Africans abroad and their country, the announcement yesterday by President Mbeki that the Government is to reconsider its position on South Africans overseas voting in next year's election could do much to assure young South Africans abroad that, like their commitment to South Africa, the South African Government's commitment to them remains unwavering. We eagerly await the announcement by the National Government on the details of how the President's undertaking will be implemented."
The Premier went on to address the other key purpose of his visit to Western Europe - his meetings with business leaders and global NGO's in the UK, the Netherlands and Switzerland to promote trade and tourism in the Western Cape, and also to coordinate cooperation with the Provincial Government in developing and growing the province. "These meetings and interactions are another part of ensuring that the people of the Western Cape take full advantage of the benefits of globalisation," said the Premier. "The jobs and growth which flow from many of these meetings may well provide the added incentives to bring even greater numbers of our young South Africans home even earlier."
On Thursday the Premier will address 180 business leaders in the Netherlands as part of the South Africa Week celebrations. Friday afternoon will see the Premier addressing the Swiss-SA Chamber in Zurich about trade and investment opportunities in the Western Cape.
On Monday, the Premier will be joined in Geneva by Health MEC, Minister Piet Meyer and senior Health officials for a high-level meeting with the management of the Global Fund for Aids where the approval for a sizeable contribution by the Fund to the fight against HIV/Aids in the province will be discussed.
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