Twenty years ago, Nelson Mandela, addressed the first graduation ceremony of the ORT STEP (Science and Technology Education Project) Institute near Johannesburg.
The ceremony was, he said, an “historical moment” and it was an event that Richard Setati has treasured ever since.
Mr Setati was one of the 28 ORT STEP graduates who received their diplomas from President Mandela on May 7, 1996. It was a life-changing experience for him – one that was well worth his daily 150km round-trip to accomplish.
“I have a lot of emotions about ORT,” he said. “ORT SA changed the lives of many young people during my time and gave us a meaning of what ‘Education for Life’ is all about. This country needs that… to break the cycles of deprivation and poor learners’ performance.”
Richard has since enjoyed a fulfilling career focused on science and maths education as well as technical training and skills development and currently works as a project coordinator in the Gauteng Department of Education.
The Institute was a revolutionary new education programme using satellite technology to reach distant areas. Its key objective was to train school teachers in the teaching of technology, science and maths to minority populations. It was “pointing the way to our future”, President Mandela told the graduation ceremony, because the newly trained teachers would bring about a change in attitude towards the place of technology in the education system.
ORT South Africa has been opening doors ever since and is now strengthening its position as a leader in technology education in South Africa with the imminent launch of the ORT SA Academy.
The new Academy will offer seminars, courses and lectures on STEM-related subjects.
Its Skills and Enterprise Academy will cater for accredited small business training, including mentoring; an IT Academy will offer end-user computer qualifications, robotics and coding. In addition, bridging programmes in technology will be offered, which could lead to careers in IT.
“The extensions and renovations to ORT House that have made this possible is thanks to a generous donation by Eric and Sheila Samson,” ORT SA CEO Ariellah Rosenberg. “We can now extend our impact on up-skilling South Africans, making them employable, with an emphasis on 21st century skills, which are now required for future careers.”