UP hosts 2016 Kapuscinski Development Lecture

Posted on June 23, 2016

On 31 May 2016, the University of Pretoria hosted the 2016 Kapuscinski Development Lecture, named in honour of the late Polish journalist and author Ryszard Kapuściński. The 80 Kupuscinski lectures presented since 2009 were attended by more than 25 000 participants.

The lecture series offers students an opportunity to learn about and discuss development issues, such as climate change, human rights, aid effectiveness, Europe-Africa relations and the Sustainable Development Goals. The lectures are high-level events and contribute to the international debate on development and the formulation of the European development policy.

Prof Norman Duncan, Vice-Principal (Academic) of the University of Pretoria, welcomed those present and delivered the opening address, emphasising how much the University of Pretoria (UP) appreciated the invitation to host the event. Mr Marcus Cornaro, who had served as the EC Ambassador/Head of Delegation to Vietnam from 2003 to 2007 and was appointed as Deputy Director General, Directorate General for Development and Cooperation – EuropeAid (DEVCO) – for the European Commission in 2012, also addressed the audience.

This year's topic was the importance of education and employability for the development of a country, and the lecture was attended by academic staff, students of development studies and related disciplines and members of the diplomatic corps. Nesmy Manigat, the former Hatian Minister of National Education and Professional Training, was one of the two keynote speakers. He is the current Chairman of the Governance, Ethics, Risk and Finance Committee of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Said Committee provides oversight over the GPE's Conflict of Interest Policy and Risk Management Framework, and advises the Board to ensure that GPE resources are managed efficiently and effectively and in a way that is consistent with the Global Partnership's mission, goals, objectives and policies.

Manigat highlighted the danger of 'one-track thinking' in trying to solve problems and encouraged 'out-of-the-box' initiatives to solve some of the problems currently facing education. He pointed out that in a rapidly changing world, the current contents of degrees and diplomas soon become obsolete, and stated that the onus rests on the students to start creating relevant content.

The second keynote speaker was Mr Ruairi Quinn, who has held several ministerial portfolios in Ireland, including Minister for Enterprise and Employment (1993–1994), Minister for Finance (1994–1997) and Minister for Education and Skills (2011–2014). He was a Teachta Dála for the Dublin South-East constituency and also served as a public representative in Dáil Éireann (the Irish Parliament) for over thirty years, and as a Senator in Seanad Éireann (the Upper House). He led the Labour Party for five years, from 1997 until 2002, after serving as the Party's deputy leader for the previous seven years.

The key message from the speakers was: 'The next century is already being built daily in today's classrooms. However, it becomes more and more obvious that family, government, the media and civil society must be included in the transmission of cultural heritage and key values. To address current and future challenges to peace, prosperity, public health and the environment, especially in developing countries, educational systems can no longer be enclosed in traditional schooling patterns. The learning environment has to go beyond the classroom and must mobilise key actors from other sectors. We have to gradually take down the classroom walls. This will require the re-engineering of curricula, of learning and of financing.'

Mr Quinn emphasised the fact that '[q]uality Education was listed fourth amongst the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals in Education 2030, the Incheon Declaration, which was proclaimed at the World Education Forum 2015 held in the Republic of Korea. Over 1 600 participants from 160 countries, including over 120 ministers, heads and members of delegations, heads of agencies and officials of multilateral and bilateral organisations, and representatives of civil society, the teaching professions, youth and the private sector adopted the Incheon Declaration for Education 2030, which sets out a new vision for education for the next fifteen years.' Further, he stated that 'Education 2030 must begin to explore ways in which young people, who have lost their ''natural education years'' are given space and time to find them again. If we fail to address this issue, then we will not be properly prepared for the additional challenges which it poses for us all'. 

He explained that for developing nations the key differentiator with regard to levels of educational output are the qualifications, the social status, the quality of teaching skills and the commitment of teachers. Because some of these differences are historic, they cannot be quickly addressed in emerging nations. He explained that the strengthening and building of all levels of an education system from pre-school to higher education is a key factor. In order to have a culture of effective education, parents, grandparents, community and civic organisations, teacher unions and teacher training colleges, and the community at large need to take an active role in ensuring that education is seen as a priority in their country.  Mr Quinn pointed out the similarities between South Africa and Ireland and reiterated that it was essential for governments to understand that 'the issues are real and must be addressed before changes in the curriculum, the assessment/ examination regime or teacher training issues are resolved. The existing landscape of learning must be prepared properly so that a culture of education can be properly installed and maintained over decades. Education 2030 must be mobilised by all, not as a destination, but more as a staging post along the route which by its very nature is open ended'. He acknowledged the similarities between South Africa's efforts to improve education and training and efforts made to this end in many other countries around the world. Finally, he mentioned that Ireland also has a large and growing young population and that in the current climate economic constraints are a challenge to all countries.

Following the conclusion of the lecture the members of the audience were invited to ask questions to further inform themselves on the topic.

A cocktail event concluded the activities and guests had the opportunity to interact informally with each other while enjoying typical South African delicacies and entertainment.

Click on the link below to watch a video recording of the lecture.


- Author Shakira Hoosain and Myan Subrayan

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