If education was used as a tool of oppression during apartheid, the youth of today must use it for liberation, former African Union chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said on Thursday.
"Once you think what is white is superior and what is African is inferior, then you'll be a dominated nation. So part of decolonising ourselves is to believe in ourselves," she told African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) members and students at the Durban University of Technology.
She encouraged students to get educated in order to transform the country’s economy. Transformation at universities did not only mean admitting more black students, but also changing the demographics of the academic staff. She encouraged students to become academics in order to inspire the next generation.
Dlamini-Zuma said the country had abundant mineral resources, but that a lack of skills was preventing these from being exploited. Young people needed to study to become skilled in fields such as engineering so the country could export finished goods rather than raw materials.
She encouraged higher education institutions to use technology to increase access for those who had not been admitted due to a lack of space.
Dlamini-Zuma called on the ANCYL to remain disciplined during its fight for free education and not to destroy the assets of the country’s people.
“It is totally unacceptable to burn libraries, clinics, schools and university halls,” she warned.
ANCYL secretary general Njabulo Nzuza said those who argued that free education would be a waste of money failed to understand that an uneducated nation would never grow economically.
"Free education should never be separated from radical economic transformation," he said.
The league's KwaZulu-Natal chair, Kwazi Mshengu, said they had invited Dlamini-Zuma to talk to them because they had entrusted her with their future.
The league's Ethekwini regional chair, Thembo Ntuli, said they backed Dlamini-Zuma to be the next ANC president. They would stand up against anyone who staged protests against President Jacob Zuma in Durban.