30/03/2017 03:55 SAST | Updated 10/04/2017 12:20 SAST

Dear Graduates, Education Means Service To Africa

It is a damning indictment on graduates in SA that the villages and townships we come from have potholes, no running water and are underdeveloped.

Weston Colton

I must take this opportunity, with all the humility I can muster, to give my most sincere salute and congratulations to the students who are graduating this autumn. To say that your journey has not been an easy one would be a gross understatement, your journey has been more difficult than most, you are the generation of students that lived through the disruptions of two Fees Must Fall uprisings, the fact that you have made it out on the other side, demands that I take my proverbial hat off to you and salute your resilience, your perseverance and your single minded determination to academic excellence.

As you go out into the world, being graduates I implore you to be graduates of singular distinction, graduates that are ready to be of service to our beautiful continent. It is a damning indictment on graduates on this continent that the villages and townships that we hail from are riddled with potholes, they have no running water and they are the very picture of underdevelopment. Municipalities from our home towns are starved of skilled individuals in the fields of engineering, accountancy, health and economics amongst others, these municipalities have billions in unspent budgets because they don't have project managers for development projects.

There are no engineers to build local clinics and bridges that can safely carry children to schools, there are no accountants to prudently manage public funds. Yet we, as the graduates coming from those towns have flocked to former colonial towns such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, where our engineering skills are used to build grandiose malls, where our accountancy skills are used gamble on the glorified gambling houses popularly known as stock markets, our food technology skills are used to create biltong flavoured yoghurts instead of food security for the vulnerable members of society.

We must shun the crass individualism that was brought to the shores of Africa on the boats of imperialists, revitalised by the economics of consumerist neoliberal globalism. The ideologies of "every man for himself, God for us all" are foreign concepts that have removed the spirit of Ubuntu from the souls of Africans. Africans as a people are by their very nature communal and not individualistic, we believe in the African proverb of "I am because you are", Africa thrived for centuries, before colonialism berthed in Cape Town in 1652, through the co-creation of a mutual destiny and being your neighbour's keeper.

I implore you to become graduates of singular distinction, to become graduates that will be assets to your communities and not just your families, to become graduates that will take an interest in the well-being of your fellow African.

It was with the advent of colonialism and neo-colonialism that we got the idea that we as African people should be in perpetual competition with each other for resources and that we should use every opportunity to accumulate as much meaningless material as possible, it was this idea of self aggrandisement and self idolisation. The remnants of colonialism have had a corrosive effect on respect for each other's humanity, colonial ideas such as the primacy of the individual over the community is the reason why today African leaders can float in luxury German sedans in a sea of poverty.

It is the reason why engineering graduates use their degrees build vanity projects such as five star hotels whilst government hospitals crumble in their home towns, it is the reason why in Johannesburg brother has turned against brother in a Xenophobic rage competing for the opportunity to be paid exploitative slave wages waiting tables for Europeans in fine dining restaurants. Nkrumah, Sankara, Lumumba, Biko, and other African luminaries would tell you that this is not the Africa they died to liberate.

I again implore you to become graduates of singular distinction, to become graduates that will be assets to your communities and not just your families, to become graduates that will take an interest in the well-being of your fellow African, to become graduates that will lift their eyes higher than the horizons of materialism and self interest, to become graduates that will flock en masse to the public sector to help improve government's ability to deliver basic services to our people.

Congratulations to each and every person that will graduate this Autumn, hold your heads up high for your achievements are to be celebrated, also straighten your shoulders as the future of Africa weighs heavily on you, put your degrees to the service of our Africa.