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Launch of Gandhi-Mandela Centre of Specialisation for Artisan Skills – Speech by High Commissioner Jaideep Sarkar on 28.10.2021

Posted on: October 29, 2021 | Back | Print

Launch of Gandhi-Mandela Centre of Specialisation for Artisan Skills – Speech by High Commissioner Jaideep Sarkar on 28.10.2021

His Excellency Mr. Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Department of Higher Education, Science & Innovation;

Colleagues from Department of Higher Education, DIRCO, the college; Distinguished members of the audience, ladies & gentlemen; Good morning, Namaste, Sanbonani!

In October every year we observe the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who was born in a small town in India. So it is a very appropriate time to launch the Gandhi-Mandela Centre of Specialisation of Artisan skills in South Africa, named after two of the world’s most revered leaders. While Mandela and Gandhi never met during their lifetimes, both were linked by common values and an ennobling national vision that united their people. Both understood that centuries of poverty, deprivation and under development could not be reversed without better education. In fact, Madiba had said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

But education by and of itself is not enough in today’s global economy. The modern economy cannot employ large numbers of people on the basis of basic literacy alone. To be employable today one needs to be educated but also skilled. Further, these skills need to be continuously updated to meet the needs of a rapidly changing global economy. Most countries including India and South Africa have responded by making skill development as a new policy vertical but eventually major changes may have to be made in the way we educate ourselves so that our education system supplies the economy with the skills it needs to transform and grow. Otherwise, our countries will continue to face on the one hand a shortage of highly trained workers, and on the other a surplus of conventionally educated youth, who possess little or no job skills.

Today, India like South Africa is one of the youngest nations in the world. In India more than 62% of its population in the working age group (15-59 years), and more than 54% of its total population below 25 years of age. This poses enormous challenges in terms of finding gainful employment for millions and millions of youth entering the work force. And it is estimated that only 4.69% of the total workforce in India has undergone formal skill training as compared to 68% in UK, 75% in Germany, 52% in USA, 80% in Japan and 96% in South Korea. In this lies both a challenge and an opportunity.

India has a dedicated Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and set up the National Skill Development Corporation in 2008 NSDC to fulfil the growing need in India for skilled manpower across sectors and narrow the gap between the demand and supply of skills. India had launched a skill development programme in which training has

been imparted to more than 13 million people. Similarly, South Africa’s National Skills Development Strategy aims at creating a skilled and capable workforce which would lead to economic expansion and inclusive growth. The National Development Plan 2030 of South Africa seeks to address unemployment and inequality with the target of producing 30,000 artisans annually by 2030.

For a skills strategy to be successful it has to be closely linked and integrated with the creation of jobs in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors. Thus skill development has to be a shared responsibility of Government, the entire spectrum of corporate sector, community based organizations, industry and trade organisations and other stakeholders. In particular, the policy has to deal for example with the problems of the working and employability of women. Skilling women in non- traditional roles is important to increase the participation rate of women in the economy.

The linkage of skill development with entrepreneurship is deliberate and important. Many countries are facing the phenomenon of jobless growth. Conventional economic models are no longer able to create the requisite number of jobs. Thus the objective of skill development has to be not only to make people employable in existing industries but also promote the development of entrepreneurs that would create jobs. The Covid pandemic has created further uncertainties and challenges for job seekers.

Inspired by our leaders Mahatma and Madiba and as a reflection of strong bilateral relations, both countries agreed to set up this Centre in 2018. I am very happy to note that already two batches have been successfully admitted under this Gandhi-Mandela project with intake of new batch under the project in 2021 being around 73. I am glad to hear that the project has been successful in imparting training and skills to mechanical fitters, boilermakers, electricians and millwright apprentices using the high-end equipment and machines provided by the Government of India under the project. I trust that this State-of-the-art Centre would have positive multiplier effects leading to more South African youth gaining skillful knowledge through the Centre.

Following its ancient philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ meaning the world is one family, India strongly believes that no one nation can progress in isolation and it is important to grow together. This has been more evident now with the current pandemic. This project would serve as a rightful example on how countries can work together in achieving the dream of collective growth and development.

I would also take this opportunity to thank South Africa for their kind hospitality and for working closely with Indian delegations and officials who had visited South Africa at various stages of the project. The success of the project is an important demonstration of the fraternal relationship between India and South Africa.