Embrace the science of education
Professor Wiseman Nkuhlu, Chancellor of the University of Pretoria, addressed a GIBS Forum recently during which he touched on his own story of leadership as told in his biography: A Life of Purpose, written by Luvuyo Wotshela. As South Africa’s first black chartered accountant (CA), Nkuhlu is a pioneer in the financial services industry and a role model for aspiring young South Africans.
“When you are poor, you are conquered, you are rural, or you come from a single family, you may think you have so many things stacked against you that you have no chance of getting out,” Nkuhlu told delegates. But his story highlights that anyone can rise above poverty and disadvantage.
In the talk which drew heavily on his experience on Robben Island and as an activist, businessman and educator, Nkuhlu also shared his views on education and colonisation; highlighting why a focus on science, mathematics and technology must continue to be an imperative for Africa.
“As I become more politically consciousness, I became more convinced about what was behind colonisation,” he mused. “Africans in West Africa - especially in ancient Ghana, Mali and in Sudan - were trading with Europeans, especially the Portuguese and there was no fear of being colonised. The issue of African being perceived as inferior came as Europe was advancing with the Renaissance, the Enlightment and they were acquiring and mastering weapons. They started feeling superior and also arrogant. So I became convinced that behind this colonisation was this gap in science and technology, which developed between Africa and Europe.”
Therefore, said Nkuhlu, “if we are going to get to the root (of colonisation) as Africans, we have to close that gap in education. So my resolve to become a CA was me confronting the fact that, as political activists, were we giving enough attention to the fact that us being colonised had its root the gap in science and technology?”
Of course, stressed Nkuhlu, his reference to science goes way beyond just chemistry and physics. “I am talking about science being a study of organised knowledge, which is based on rules and so on. So I’m talking about all science.”
Explaining his own choice of a career in accounting, Nkuhlu explained: “I started to understand how important accounting was in enhancing trust in capital markets and the fact that developing markets were going to be in need of capital from all over the world. I began to realise that accounting was possibly one of the most strategic disciplines to master if we want to be able to take control of our economies, once we attained freedom. That’s how I became hooked up to accounting. And I became more committed when, around 1969 when I was doing my second year BCom, I became convinced that capital markets were very important and I zeroed in on that.”
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