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UKZN graduation address by Thobani Zikalala

By Thobani Zikalala

Chancellor Dr Zweli Mkhize, Fellow students, Members of the executive, Staff, Parents, Ladies and gentlemen. My name is Thobani Zikalala and I am deeply honored to address you all on behalf of the SRC at this momentous occasion.

I want, on behalf of the SRC which is the official body representing the best interests of the students, to reaffirm our commitment to ensuring a stable and viable university environment.

I wish to congratulate all our graduates here today. You have worked so hard to achieve your goals and you are now ready to embark on your chosen careers, and/or further your studies. We know the hardships that many of you went through to get where you are and for that we commend you.

We know many of you slept in computer labs and lecture halls because this university, like many others in the country, has not done enough to solve accommodation issues. Where you have been fortunate to be allocated in to a residence, some of you have been living inhumane and unlivable conditions. How can this surprise us when we study in a university in a colonial society and we are its colonial subjects and thus will never be considered human.

We know many of you graduating today are the only hope for your families to exit the devastating realm of poverty. We know that today, for your parents you are their only beacon of hope. For many of you, you are the first graduate in your family. Your family, like majority of the families in South Afrika, relies on you to change their destiny.

You graduate at a time when this university prides itself in being a premier university of Afrikan scholarship, but how can that be when colonial thoughts and knowledge systems still reign supreme? Nevertheless, you have been in the university fighting the struggle for fees to fall and unfortunately because of how the economy of this country is, many of your peers graduate at the same time as you may find themselves as proponents of the Hire A Graduate campaign. So from fighting fees to fall and advancing the struggle of Free Quality Decolonized Education to fighting for employment. Indeed the struggle for the children of the poor never ends.

Fellow students you have endured rubber bullets, stun grenades and teargas for you to get here. You have seen peers being sent to jail. Many of your peers could not survive but you did, for that we commend you.

You graduate at a time this country is under imperialist attack and as such demands your total protection against the forces of evil who seek to further enslave our people and to keep our country in bondage. Advance and make your mark in society as proud alumni of the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN).

As the SRC we also wish to acknowledge and honor your parents, families, communities and sponsors for having supported and encouraged you to realize your dreams, often at great personal sacrifice. As teachers you have a golden opportunity. An opportunity to guide the future of this country. For that I envy you.

As future leaders we should walk in the footsteps of one of the greatest leaders this university has ever produced – the late Bantubonke Biko. A martyr of the Black Consciousness movement who sacrificed his life to liberate Black People. Biko knew that education was fundamental to freedom and the success of Black people. Biko taught us about self-love and self-determination at a time when it was very hard to do so. Let us honor Bantu Biko’s memory and leave a legacy of excellence for future generations to develop and excel. As Biko taught us that education must be for liberation. Also it is his ideological senior Mangaliso Sobukwe who said to us education is nothing but a service to Afrika.

Fellow students I understand that you graduate as qualified teachers of this colonial education but I ask for you to go the extra mile, it is through you that we must see the decolonial education we envisage. Go the revolutionary way, Onkgopotse Tiro will be proud of you.

The democratic dispensation has given us nothing but a right to vote in a country we cannot call our own for the land still is in the hands of the few. Bantu Biko said we struggle for the right to call our souls our own. We are in a quest for true humanity!

In conclusion I once again congratulate you all and wish you well in your careers.

Thobani Zikalala is the Black First Land First Student Movement deployee at the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) SRC. The above address was given at the UKZN graduation ceremony and he was representing the SRC president.

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