In commemoration of Africa Month, the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) International Education and Partnerships Directorate in collaboration with the DUT Library and DUT Corporate Affairs hosted the Africa Day Guest Lecture last Friday, 28 May 2021 via MS Teams.
The Guest lecture was centred around this year’s Africa Day theme: Silencing The Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development and Intensifying the Fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic. It was conducted by a global esteemed academic, Professor Demola Akinyaode: Pioneer Director in the Part-Time Studies Programme, Afe Babalola University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria. The Programme Facilitator was Prof Gift Mheta, DUT Writing Centre Manager and Ms Londiwe Mndaba, was the sign language interpreter.
The discussion focus was on creating conducive conditions for Africa’s development; the issues of creating positive attitude towards Africa and its citizens, and silencing the negativity hindering Africa’s development and unity. Moreover, social exclusion of the differently abled citizens in Africa.
Welcoming the guests was Dr Lavern Samuels: Director of International Education and Partnerships Directorate at DUT. He acknowledged the presence of the guest speaker, Prof Akinyaode, stating they were looking forward to his speech. He also acknowledged special guests from various parts of the world who were part of the lecture.
“It is truly wonderful to have colleagues and friends from around the world joining us. Africa Day is a celebration where almost six decades ago, in 1958 when the Organization of African Unity was officially launched and met for the first time. This is a time for us to reflect on the past, present and the future. It is a time for us to reclaim the history of Africa, that has been stolen and put on the global back banner. It is a time for us as South Africans to reflect on South Africa’s relationships with the continent. A time to acknowledge the role of African Unity in South Africa’s freedom for colonialism and apartheid. This year’s theme, Arts, Culture, Heritage looks at preserving and restoring the history, identity and culture of the continent. As a university we have an important role to play in these activities, to harness the forces that can work towards this aim,” said Dr Samuels.
He added that it is also a time to reflect how they can work together as a continent to support the broader mandate of the African Union that was formed in 2001, focusing on development, peace and security. Further, Dr Samuels said that this year they also celebrate the African Continental Free Trade which came into effect on the 1st of January 2021 but has not been celebrated fully.
A recording of the ‘I am an African Speech’ by Mr Thabo Mbeki, former South African President was played for the guests. The facilitator, Prof Mheta said the speech is a reminder of what makes them African and why they need to celebrate Africa as a continent.
Delivering his keynote address, Prof Akinyaode said “ubuntu” (humanity) and including all Africans is important when trying to solve or address the problems of Africa.
“I believe that the particular problem of exclusion of differently abled communities like many other groups can also be resolved in the process. The lecture will examine the concept of attitude, the condition that results to negative attitude towards Africa and an approach to creating positive attitudes of silencing the negativity, injuring Africa’s development. The concept attitude means a certain way of thinking about something. We normally react positively to something that our value system judges. We have a positive attitude towards something that we consider good. Attitudes do change. It is easier for Africa to change things to align with the world than the whole world to change its attitudes towards Africa,” said Prof Akinyaode.
Prior to the Guest Lecture, the committee also visited a local radio station called Siyaviva which employs over 70% of differently abled communities. This was to celebrate Africa Day focusing on the differently abled communities, which are often excluded in celebrations.
DUT’s Director: Advancement and Alumni Relations, Mr Zwakele Ngubane spoke on the social inclusion of the differently abled citizens at DUT.
“When we talk of humanity, we talk of the importance of recognising that we must of course be compassionate, have mutual respect and care for one another, because my humanity rests within the recognition of your humanity. The importance of seeing and recognising the other person is a core African concept, which speaks to respect and many other ideas and concepts which uphold the valuing and the notion of the other, regardless of who they are, where they come from or any other differentiating factors. As DUT, if we talk of ENVISION2030, the values and principles that we adopted, compassion becomes very key. We need to continue to remind ourselves of this core as Africans. As the Advancement and Alumni Relations have engaged with the Disability Rights Unit to ensure that we secure financial support for students with disabilities. We acknowledge that there are many challenges that confront many of our brothers and sisters especially those who are differently abled,” said Ngubane.
He highlighted that DUT tries by all means to create a culture of inclusivity to ensure that the differently abled students do feel as part of the DUT community.
Closing the lecture was Ms Lucille Webster, Director of DUT Library Services who delivered the vote of thanks and acknowledged all the esteemed guests for attending and their meaningful contribution.
Pictured: Dr Lavern Samuels: Director of International Education and Partnerships Directorate at DUT.