Elsenburg: the youth is the Future of Agriculture in the Western Cape

By Beverley Schäfer MPP, Standing Committee Chairperson for Economic Opportunities, Tourism and Agriculture, Western Cape Provincial Parliament:

Ms Joyene Isaacs – HOD

Officials from the Department of Agriculture

The Management and Staff of Elsenburg College

Students,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A welcome to all of you here today, at the opening of the 2016 Academic Year at Elsenberg College.

While 2016 brings a number of great economic and climatic challenges to the forefront, it also brings a wealth of opportunities.

You may wonder why I come across as an eternal optimist, even though I must admit, I actually am.

But, I really do believe that 2016 is the year of the student!  All of you sitting before me here today, will be the very young people that, in the near future, will lead our agricultural sector and take agriculture to a new level.

We know in this Province, that one of the best investments this government can make, is in our youth. The Western Cape has allocated R56.9 million to the Structured Agricultural Education and Training programme for the 2015/16 financial year.

The future of agriculture must be protected and sustained and it is through places of learning such as Elsenberg, that we can continue to grow this agricultural economy, create competitive and innovative farming practices through new ideas, and bring passion and pride back to the agricultural sector.

Project Khulisa – our project to reduce poverty in the Western Cape, has identified Agri-processing as a high-potential sector. Agri-processing holds particular potential to increase employment in rural areas. If it receives the dedicated attention and support, it could add up to 100 000 jobs and generate R26 billion for the economy under a high-growth scenario.

But we cannot achieve this, without the much needed water resources and infrastructure, and we certainly, cannot achieve this without you.

We need the necessary training and skills that you will receive here at this college, together with a mind-set of innovation, to ensure that Agri-processing in the Western Cape remains competitive to current global markets.

We have taken the language tensions and transformation issues at Elsenburg very seriously. A full team, of both management and the College Council, is engaged in finding sustainable solutions to overcome these issues in the interest of the future of agriculture and of our country.

To date, the following steps have been undertaken:

-The College Council instituted a task team to engage with students and key stakeholders to facilitate the development of a new language policy;

-As undertaken by Management, several engagements have already been held with the Student Representative Council, House Committee as well as the entire student population;

-Independent mediators have been appointed to facilitate the transformation process, diversity management training and conflict resolution has been implemented involving students, lecturers and administrative personnel.

Flowing out of last year’s protest actions, it was agreed that the best course of action going forward will be:

  •          In the short term, lectures will be duplicated so that they take place in both English and Afrikaans, this gives students the choice to learn in the language in which they feel most comfortable. A full programme was implemented to ensure that lost learning time was made up, as well as a programme of tutorial classes was introduced.
  •          In the medium term, a new language policy is being developed. This process is already underway, and forms part of the broader transformation imperative being implemented to encourage inclusive and quality education.
  •          We also welcome the partnership with the University of Stellenbosch for innovative ways to tackle the language issues.

We are pleased that all parties have come together to find solutions, and have agreed to go forward in a constructive manner. We are eager to address the language and transformation issues at Elsenburg, and are dedicated to pursuing this jointly with all stakeholders involved.

It is important to note, that Elsenburg delivers a world-class education in one of our key economic sectors and it is important that we work together to maintain this high standard.

We have the best interests of all the students at heart, and we will continue to develop creative solutions in line with our broader transformation imperative.

To all the students here today, we must take you forward with us -to ensure that your years of learning are quality years of acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills as the future of agriculture in South Africa is in your hands.

Institutions of learning are places where bonds should be formed, and we trust the students of this College will, in good faith, do their utmost to be part of building a stronger democracy in our country.

I thank you.