Long after most staff and students had left for the weekend, Africa Day at the Howard College Theatre was abuzz with energy and opinions of passionate individuals eager for robust debate at the first annual Conversations for Change lecture.

Held by UKZN in partnership with a network of young African leaders called the Community of Mandela-Rhodes Scholars (CMRS), the role of education and entrepreneurship in transforming society was the main topic of discussion.

Ms Shabashni Moodley, a Sociologist and co-founder of Inkubator for Social Entrepreneurship, and Dr Mvuselelo Ngcoya, an academic in Development Studies at UKZN, addressed the audience on the part the public could play in moving Africa forward.

Audience members were invited to raise matters that concerned them as individuals. Responding to student and other issues, Moodley suggested that people actively organise themselves into co-operatives for effective change rather than face dissonance that remained unaddressed.

‘Dialogue is therapeutic and creates a sense of activism,’ said Moodley. ‘We need to push the boundaries beyond learning to make fundamental contributions in society.’

Ngcoya’s address began with a discussion about South Africa’s “national gangrene” low self-expectations that hindered one’s full potential. He urged people to push the expectations they had of themselves, especially students challenged by daily circumstances that threaten goals and dreams. ‘If we do not see ourselves as people who can do, we are done for,’ said Ngcoya, ‘We need to think ourselves anew’.

Event Facilitator Mr Suntosh Pillay was encouraged by the night’s proceedings and success, ‘CMRS is delighted by UKZN’s support on this initiative as many of our alumni consider this home.’ He added, ‘Social activism must start at grass-roots level.  We must engage in conversations for a new world order, with afro-optimism as a norm.’ 

In response, Corporate Relations Division representative, Ms Unathi Makalima, welcomed the inspirational initiative of CMRS saying: ‘UKZN is excited to be part of the Conversations for Change project on this, Africa Day.  Many issues continue to preoccupy the African agenda. In partnering with the CMRS, we stress that Africa needs action, and that action begins with a conversation.’

Long after the votes of thanks, the Howard College corridor remained alive with chatter, proving that inspiration, call for action and healthy debate remain active at UKZN.

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