/ 5 March 2004

‘Further education is not a sideshow’

The next government needs to put more money into further education, President Thabo Mbeki said on Friday.

Visiting Tshwane North College’s Mamelodi campus outside Pretoria, Mbeki braved the driving rain to meet the staff and students as part of the African National Congress’s election campaign.

“I have learnt a lot, I am ashamed to say,” he said while visiting an engine repair class.

Mbeki said he realised the government would have to provide more support in the form of funding and scholarships.

“What is being done here is critical to the future of the country,” he said, adding it could not be treated as a sideshow.

This sentiment was echoed by college principal, Miranda Bastiaans.

She said the funding of students is a huge problem.

“Traditionally parents would shoulder the load but in a community like this with so many out of work that doesn’t happen,” she said.

Bastiaans said the college, which formed through the amalgamation of Pretoria, Soshanguve and Mamelodi colleges, is also battling to develop private partnerships that could help with the funding.

Tshwane Mayor Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, who accompanied Mbeki on his tour, exclaimed it was a fantastic way to meet the people.

“And judging by the mobbing he is getting, I think the people think so too,” he said.

Students Albert Mailula (22) and Gordon Maloma (21) seemed at a loss for words as Mbeki walked into their classroom.

“It was fantastic meeting the president but we told him we needed better facilities,” they said.

Students screamed and shouted as he made this way through the campus — bodyguards working hard to fend off his admirers.

“We love you, Mr President,” they screamed.

And when he asked jokingly whom they would vote for, they answered: “Isn’t it obvious, Mr President?”

Next, Mbeki took to the flooded streets of Mamelodi, dancing in the rain with a group of his supporters.

Visiting the house of pensioners Ester Moroko (84) and her daughter Salome Moropa, he sat and listened as they bemoaned their health and lack of money.

“We told him we were always sick. Last week I was at the clinic eight times,” said Moroko, who added she was suffering from a poor heart, high blood pressure and asthma.

Other houses claimed to be blessed by Mbeki’s visit with Rosina Chewe believing things could only go well for them now.

“It was a sign,” she said.

The election tour also took Mbeki to the Ford Motor Company where he interacted with workers on the production line. — Sapa

  • Special Report: Elections 2004