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3 July 2018
Ditsela Graduation: Educational Pathways for Labour

(Published - 3 July 2018)

It is not enough to talk about what must fall – rather we must ask: what must arise in its place?

This message from former National Union of Mineworker’s SA Education head, Dunga Sikwebu, was directed to 105 graduates of the Ditsela Danlep Labour Education Programme who celebrated their remarkable achievements in a colourful ceremony at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) last week.

The programme, launched in 1996 by the major trade union federations COSATU, NACTU and FEDUSA, has been facilitated through the UWC Fair Share and Social Law projects within the School of Government since 2013.

Since its inception, more than 1 000 union officials, shop stewards and office bearers have completed certificated courses in trade union education topics, including Labour Law, Political Economy of Labour, Leading and Managing Trade Unions, Women in Leadership Development and Organiser Skills development.

Sikwebu urged the “new soldiers of workers’ education” to use their newly-acquired knowledge to look beyond the shop floor, beyond employer/employee disputes, and to tackle broader issues.

“If we are to truly reimagine worker education and build international working class power, then we must look at broader global issues,” said Sikwebu. “How can we dream if the politics of exclusion continue; if the economy forces us to compete rather than collaborate?

The objective of the Ditsela education programmes have been to create a space where workers can interact across federations, develop and build critical thinking, an understanding of the changing workplace and society, be able to respond to it and engage in the political landscape.

The DANLEP programme was specifically developed as a key leadership development initiative for the labour movement and community leaders and to provide access for workers to higher education.

“We must talk about oppression in society and use our knowledge to tackle large scale dehumanisation,” Sikwebu. We must relearn actions of solidarity and empathy. And we must sow our new-found knowledge into the wind to ensure knowledge transfer.”

Lifelong Learning To Improve Labour And Build Communities

UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Tyrone Pretorius praised the Ditsela graduates – and most recent UWC alumni – for their perseverance in juggling a multitude of responsibilities as adult part-time students to achieve their academic goals.

“A university is judged by the quality of its graduates. As alumni, you are our new ambassadors. Hoist the UWC flag with pride wherever you go.”

For many entering this programme, it is their first entry into a university space, long after they have left school. Students are nominated by their union and selected based on the roles they play in their organisations - and could potentially play in their communities.

“UWC graduates are catalysts for change,” Pretorius noted. “We believe in the transformative power of education. Education is the gateway for individuals and communities to transform their lives.”

He stressed the University’s commitment to opening the doors of learning to all, adding that it is hoped that the current online pilot programmes would help make this a far-reaching reality.

“You are catalysts for change. Being change agents means being good role models, playing your part as active citizens and getting involved in the development of your communities. It means standing up for what is right!

“You all have a great future – a future on which this country depends,” said Pretorius. “You have the tools to make a difference, and I know you will use them well.”