The Honorable Minister of Higher Education and
Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, congratulating
graduates in the College of Agriculture, Engineering
and Science at UKZN.

‘We call upon parents and guardians to take an active interest in what is going on in our institutions, so that together with management and government you are able to tackle whatever challenges our institutions and students face.’  

This was the call put out by the Honorable Minister of Higher Education and Training, Dr Blade Nzimande, at the occasion of the graduation of students within UKZN’s College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science. 

With reference to recent student protests and the #FeesMustFall campaign across universities in South Africa, Nzimande said:  ‘Yes, our students have a right to protest, but our universities need transformation not destruction led by a minority of students.’ 

‘Government, in its determination to support students who come from families that cannot afford but are enrolled in the fields of study offered by this College, has this year set aside over R800 million from the National Skills Fund as full bursaries for such students,’ said Nzimande. 

Nzimande singled out engineers and veterinary specialists as some of the skills desperately needed in South Africa.   ‘The importance of producing more people in these areas of study is of paramount importance to us,’ he said. Nzimande said he was proud of the graduands for taking up fields where there was a shortage of skills.

Nzimande challenged the University to consider expanding in the field of Animal Health as currently Onderstepoort is the only institution where aspirant Vets can study.  ‘Human health is in danger if we do not look after animal health, especially the livestock that supply our meat, milk and other related products,’ he said. 

Nzimande said he was delighted to see such a large cohort of PhD and Masters graduates.  UKZN graduated 330 doctoral graduates overall, with 117 graduating from the College of AES. 

Nzimande was also there to support his niece, Miss Noxolo Gumbi, who graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics. 

‘I thought I would come quietly as a parent to witness the graduation of my late brother’s daughter, Noxolo Gumbi. However, it would be amiss of me if I did not take this opportunity to also congratulate, in true African tradition, all of our other sons and daughters graduating here today.’ 

‘Graduation is a kind of coming of age ceremony, where years of study finally pay off and you gain hard evidence in the form of a certificate from an accredited and highly acclaimed institution of higher learning such as UKZN,’ said Nzimande. ‘So go out there and make your mark in your chosen field and contribute positively to growing the economy and knowledge base of this country.’ 

Nzimande encouraged graduands to enroll in post-graduate studies, ‘We are faced with a challenge of ageing academics, and as government – working together with universities – we have put in place a programme – the new Generation of Academics (nGap) – to attract young aspirant academics,’ he said. 

The Minister also thanked parents and guardians for their efforts, ‘Much as these graduands are your sons and daughters, but their achievements go beyond just improving their personal lives and those of their families. Their skills are vital for the overall economic development of our country. So there can be no more of a patriotic duty than for families to invest in the education of their children,’ said Nzimande.

Sejal Desai