Youth Pledge a noble notion

For many years when South Africa remained the only country on the continent still battling to unshackle itself from the grip of colonialism, our liberation struggle remained imbedded in the national psyche of a small African nation with a heart of gold.

For many years when South Africa remained the only country on the continent still battling to unshackle itself from the grip of colonialism, our liberation struggle remained imbedded in the national psyche of a small African nation with a heart of gold.

Tanzania, inspired by its then President Julius Nyerere, had made it a national call for that country's schoolchildren to recite at assembly every morning the oath: we are not free until the people of South African are free.

This poor nation had sacrificed its tourism potential offered by such spectacular natural wonders as Mount Kilimanjaro for many years in favour of harbouring bands of African guerrillas. At one stage, Tanzania was home to at least 12 bases of African liberation forces, including the ANC.

Tanzanian children had to internalise this oath as part of that nation's greater vision of appreciating their pan African heritage.

Naturally President Thabo Mbeki would have been humbled and moved by this selfless act of solidarity by the Tanzanians during his days as a guerrilla in the years prior to our liberation in 1994.

It would become a life-defining moment that would have remained indelible in his mind, hence the presidential call in his state-of-the-nation address for a similar process of national affirmation at morning school assemblies.

Calling for the intensification "of national dialogue on the issues that define us as a nation", Mbeki said there was "a proposal that we should develop an oath that will be recited by learners in their morning school assemblies, as well as a Youth Pledge extolling the virtues of humane conduct and human solidarity among all South Africans".

Strengthening the foundation of our nation with a view to fostering a sense of common identity remains our biggest challenge.

Though we have embraced the notion of a rainbow nation since 1994, the reality is that our country is still characterised by - as Mbeki once pointed out - the ghosts of two nations and racism.

Targeting schools for this act of nation building should help inculcate our democratic values among the youth whose headspace - if unguided - could be the devil's workshop.

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