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“Education is an immediate equaliser,” says DHET’s Manana

A proud moment for Mduduzi Manana (Deputy Minister: Higher Education and Training) as he is capped by Prof Michael Temane (Acting Registrar).

“I truly believe that by doing this degree, many others will follow and see the value in education,” said Mduduzi Manana, Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training. Manana graduated last night at Unisa with a BA Honours in International Politics.

For Manana, who was the first Patron of the Tshwane University of Technology Bursary and Scholarship Fund, education is key. “In fact, education is an immediate equaliser,” he said. Manana believes that young people can change their lives, and that of their families, for the better through education. “Therefore it is important that we acquire education because it is my strong belief that if we have an educated nation and an educated society, then we will have a prosperous country,” he said.

He chose to study at Unisa and complete this degree for a number of reasons.  Firstly, he wanted to acquire knowledge, and secondly to inspire South Africa’s young people so that they see the value of education, and go out in their numbers to get educated. “I also want to inspire young people in the political party where I belong. We know there has been a lot of talk about cadre deployment, for example, and whilst I have no issue with cadre deployment, I don’t believe people should acquire jobs because they hold a membership of the party. I believe people must be employed based on merit, they must study and they must be qualified for positions,” he said. Manana explained that it may have worked for us for a long time, but it’s no longer working now. “We need competent people and we need people with expertise so that we can really build a developmental state,” he added.

Political activism should be complemented with education

Manana is intent on promoting lifelong learning. “Further I want to encourage colleagues and other politicians that it really shouldn’t just be about the political activism. It should be complemented with education so that we make informed decisions about the direction that the country must take. Also, it’s about being able to run an effective public system,” he said.

Manana admits that whilst his Unisa journey was a fulfilling one, it certainly came with challenges as he had registered at the university during a very tumultuous time. “I registered as a student when #FeesMustFall was a burning issue. So this was not an easy time. I was expected to write exams and at the same time meet with students and stakeholders trying to bring calm to our universities and colleges before the start of the academic year.  So it really came down to time management and prioritising what I wanted to achieve,” he said.

As a student, Manana believes support and sacrifice go hand in hand. “Despite the challenges, the support I received from family and even from the Department of Political Studies at Unisa was amazing. This is not support they give to ministers exclusively. It’s support for all, and I know this because I used to interact with the students and I learnt how appreciative they were for the support that they were getting too.”

At Unisa, you are a student no matter who you are

Manana appreciates that Unisa academics were strict with him and that he got no special treatment. He shared that he was even penalised for missing an assignment. “There are many other politicians that are studying at Unisa. These include ministers and political leaders from different parties, and they go through the same thing. At Unisa, you are a student no matter who you are.”

When it came to sacrifice, that was all up to him. Manana explained that he had to neglect his friends for some time, as well as others things he enjoyed before becoming a student, and cut down his social life immensely. “I can tell you that it’s worth it and I’m happy that I did stick to it.”

So what’s next for his academic journey? Manana has decided to take a break this year, and plans to pursue his Master’s degree in Politics starting 2018. With a laugh, Manana shared that he is being recruited by other universities; however, he wants to continue with Unisa. “I found the whole experience and journey quite fulfilling.”

Mduduzi Manana (Deputy Minister: Higher Education and Training) is flanked by Prof Michael Temane (Acting Registrar, Unisa) and Prof Mandla Makhanya (Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Unisa).

Manana said that he loved every moment of being a Unisa student, even those moments that required him to put his books down for a second and take a selfie. “I remember sneaking into the Unisa library on a Saturday alone; it would take just one student to recognise me and call others, and then it’s selfie time,” he laughed at being recognised by fellow Unisa students.

*By Kirosha Naicker and Kgaugelo Pule

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