LOOKING BACK AT TEN YEARS AND AHEAD Dr Namane Magau Over the past few years I have found it fascinating to see some of our star Matric students coming from townships and rural areas. All of a sudden it became clear that excellence was achievable by black students, even in the most desperate environments. To observe students with distinctions coming from homes that in some instances did not have electricity was inspiring. All of these great images indicate that our world had changed. The past ten years for me is about the stride undertaken in socio-economic development. It is about how historical inequalities, which were keeping our economy hostage, were profoundly refocused to meet the needs of all our people and to place our country and people on the global arena. Today our country counts in the minds of leading nations as a leader in the developing world. The developmental stance adopted by our government enabled significant approaches that transformed our economy and society. In some ways we were fortunate to experience first hand the empowerment of our communities as they became more aware of the important roles they play in the generation and creation of new knowledge. The struggle for transformation coupled with the meaningful engagement of public, private sector and civil society in creating new realities brought new solutions. I can never forget how significant it was for me to note the concerns raised by the taxi association on the development of the plan which was intended to better their services. That we had (when I was working for the CSIR) come up with a technical solution was not enough as they had views which they considered important to be considered in designing the solution. What followed was an important process which was enriching for all the players involved. Within this context I would like to raise fundamental questions that are crucial as we attempt to transform our education to meet the changing needs of our economy. We need to ask: What is knowledge? Where is it generated? Where can we find it? What purpose does it have? New knowledge is needed to help individuals and institutions to meet the needs of an ever- changing world. Today’s knowledge is created across boundaries and platforms and cannot be confined to specific spaces. Particularly within the context of transformation, new knowledge needs to be created even from sources that were previously not counted as knowledge. Traditional healers, for example, are being taken seriously as an important source of research and innovation in the health sector. Knowledge distribution across society is an important phenomenon of the new economy. In the past people would not acknowledge what my grandmother knew with her limited education as important knowledge. Today it is different. What workers know on the shop-floor and what rural farmers know is important. It is not only the industrial producers, whose understanding make success. When Gauteng Government working with industrial partners, knowledge institutions and communities we create new innovations and solutions to our economy. Within the context of transformation we find real knowledge which reflects distribution of knowledge to meet needs of society. Blue IQ projects are unlocking value for our economy and society. We need more of those kinds of initiatives to create jobs and to reduce unemployment. Knowledge as we knew it in the past requires more energy to remain relevant. The potential for innovation that lies in our communities needs to be tapped to create new value. On the economic development front we have many examples that reflect change. The motor industry has for example also benefited through the involvement from the Gauteng government in strengthening the value chain of the industry by supporting the knowledge institutions and industry. It is not surprising that the industry is competing effectively on the global front. Learning systems were developed in the process which crossed the industry, knowledge institutions and communities. Gauteng on line is a great initiative which promotes the accessing of information and improves the participation of our citizenry in the electronic world. I commend the emphasis placed by Gauteng on introducing computers in classrooms. In a world where information is circulated on an ongoing basis learning has to be located in the information networks. The vibrant innovative environment that has been created has promoted a greater appreciation of ongoing learning and confidence in what we know and have experienced as a people. The systems developed to recognise prior learning and to ensure understanding of quality assurance are commendable. It is not only changes that are happening in education but the nature of the changes that are encouraging. We are not yet where we want to be, but the systems that have been developed are gearing us for success. Universities are also currently going through transformation and as they become more responsive to the needs of our communities and economy we will see even much greater success. In the continent our African neighbours are inspired by the development of our economy and education. Let us make our institutions the beacon of excellence and innovation for the continent. Within these dynamic changes, education in our schools has to become more linked to challenges in our environments. Let us go back to the traditional basics of schools which were seen as a light in the community. The new economy also requires that. As we democratise our society, let the values we aspire for, be seen in how we live and educate. Ghandi taught us that we should be the good we want to see. The vision of change has to begin within each one of us. I am proud to be a part of a “smart’ province. Let us build on that. We need a much closer alliance between the provincial government, the University sector and industries to tackle the challenges of our changing economy. We need to draw from examples of how other countries developed technology triangles to enable distribution of knowledge as a viable system for promoting growth and employment. Honourable Premier Shilowa I can assure you that if you invited the key captains if industry in your region to meet with the knowledge institutions and labour, you would be able to identify key priority areas which you as a collective would address. We need that collaboration to ensure skills match between the growth of the economy and the available skills. Much more than that we need ongoing recognition of the great knowledge and skills that have not been uncovered which can add value in the development of new products and services. We have the institutions and the magic, let’s make it happen.