Former Human Settlements Minister, Connie September, received her doctoral degree in technology and innovation, at the Da Vinci Institute in Johannesburg, on Monday May 23.
Ms September wrote her thesis titled: Public funding of the college sector: a social-return-on-investment in higher education in South Africa for her PhD.
Ms September said Edward Kieswetter, president of the Da Vinci Institute, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony and videos of the graduates’ projects and thesis had been presented for the guests.
Ms September decided to register for the Technology and Innovation course in 2018, and said the first session started in 2019.
“Financial investment in education, especially in the public colleges, required the measurement of a social-return-on-investment.
“Public colleges are the key engines and institutions to produce the requisite skills the labour market requires. Thus any rand and cent must be measured on the basis of a social value it produces to communities and the economy as a whole,” she said.
Ms September’s passion to fight for human rights, stems way back when she was growing up in Grassy Park. “By 1980 I was not part of any political organisation but it changed soon when I joined LOGRA (Lotus River, Ottery, Grassy Park, Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association) youth and civic, CAHAC (Cape Areas Housing Action Committee) with former finance minister Trevor Manuel and the formations of the Advice Office Forum. I joined CLOWU (Clothing Workers Union) to mobilise workers to join progressive unions.”
Ms September said: “After the famous Rex Strike that broke the back of conservative unions and ushered in dignity to women workers, the formation of GAWU (Garment and Allied Workers Union), then SACTWU (South African Clothing Textile Workers Union). I became the first woman to become a deputy President of Cosatu (Congress of South Africa Trade Unions).”
She said she had served on the Magistrates Commission for five years and was responsible for ensuring that more women and especially young black women and men enter the bench in the lower courts. “Some of them are now serving in the higher courts. We were praised by the president for the changes we made.”
Ms September said her passion for education ran through her veins and prompted her to keep on studying.
“I was always interested to learn more to study further hence obtaining a pre primary teachers diploma, economic degrees, post graduate economic policy degrees, Master’s in applying technology in townships and now PhD in Education, education became my life in the unions and in parliament.”
Ms September said it was a great achievement “to complete my PhD at the age of 61.”
Ms September aimed to inspire people young and old, as she echoed former president Nelson Mandela’s belief in education.
She said communities can do much more at any age. She said she will continue to study and she also encouraged others to keep on studying but to also take their acquired knowledge to teach. “I will keenly work to get the recommendations of my thesis implemented.”
Zubeida Jaffer, author and journalist, said she has known Ms September since she was a young clothing worker at Rex Trueform in the early 1980s.
“She was a founding member of the CLOWU, which merged with other unions to form Sactwu. Her academic achievement is outstanding and should be celebrated by her high school Grassy Park High School and the union movement. It certainly is no small feat,” said Ms Jaffer.