There is an old Indian adage that has been told to me multiple times throughout my life. It outlines the order for giving reverence and goes “Matha, Pitha, Guru, Deivam,” which literally translates to “Mother, Father, Teacher, God.” It is to these four that we owe our existence. Our mother gives birth to us and brings us into this world. They point us to our father who leads us to our teachers who bring us to God but that has a slightly different meaning in this scenario which I will get to in a second.
First, I would like to give reverence to our families, our mothers, fathers, sisters, everyone who has supported us through this year because I know that at times we would have made it very hard, but we couldn’t have got through the year without your endless encouragement.
Secondly, a respectful veneration to all the teachers here at USC. I think I can safely say with 13 years experience that a good teacher can really make a difference. It’s your passion for your respective subjects, and your dedication to our success, that sets this school apart from all others and has inspired us to all achieve our goals. Also, a very big thank you to the supporting staff, including the receptionists at both Jordan and Charles Street, for always being kind and helpful with everything. Now “Mother, Father, Teacher, God,” teachers come only before God, but here God represents self-awareness as our teachers help us realise our true potential.
Reflecting back, this year certainly was not easy, I can attest to that and despite all the warnings that were given to us at the beginning, we still fell victim to some poor decisions. My favourite description from a fellow student about finishing tasks this year has to be “if tomorrow is not the due date then today is not the do date.” An accurate description of some people’s experiences throughout this year – which was one filled with excessive caffeine consumption, numerous all-nighters, mental breakdowns, seemingly endless tests and assignments. Sounds familiar right?! Don’t worry we’ve all been there, but our experiences have all been different. During our last teaching week at USC, I enlisted Nadia’s help to send out a survey to all of you, asking you to summarise your Year 12 experience in one word. The survey provided many good and very true responses, such as memorable, empowering and worthwhile which shows that our time at this school has allowed us to develop as self-aware individuals. The responses to the survey can be found in the word cloud at the back of your program.
We all started our journeys at USC in different places, but the one thing we had in common was that entry interview where we committed to taking charge of our learning. As part of that process we had to write an essay, as I’m sure you remember. I chose to write about an influential person in my life, Nelson Mandela. Why him you ask? Well I am from South Africa, so he is particularly important in shaping the person I have become today. I am a fifth generation South African Indian. Indians were brought to South Africa over 150 years ago to work as labourers in the sugarcane plantations. They did not have an easy life especially during apartheid, a time a racial segregation in South Africa. Nelson Mandela played a key role in bringing an end to this and promoting freedom for all South Africans, no matter their skin colour. He went through some unimaginable struggles but never gave up on his goal and that allowed me to grow up in a free society. One that was very different to that which my parents grew up in.
Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that the child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation.” We have been given a world class education at this school and there are millions of people in the world that would love the opportunities we’ve had so please don’t take it for granted. It was only because Nelson Mandela completed his education that he was able to become the president of South Africa and bring freedom to everyone. During the times of apartheid, people of colour weren’t given the same opportunities as everyone else and he was one of the rare few that completed his education. In fact, I am a part of the second generation of South African Indian females to have finished my secondary schooling. My mum, who is a part of the first generation, is single-handedly responsible for bringing us to Australia and she was only able to do that because she was educated. There are many places in the world where it is much worse, and girls still aren’t being given the opportunity to get an education. Take Pakistan for example. I’m sure many of you have heard of Malala Yousafzai. She was the youngest recipient of the Nobel peace prize and is a Pakistani advocate for girls’ education. Because of this she was shot by the Taliban to try and stop her efforts, but she survived and to this day still fights for her cause.
The one thing Malala and Mandela had in common is that they understood the importance of an education and that allowed them to do great things. As Ban Ki-moon said, “Education promotes equality and lifts people out of poverty. It teaches children how to become good citizens. Education is not just for a privileged few, it is for everyone. It is a fundamental human right.”
I believe that every single one of you in this room, having been given an education, can create positive change in the future. This world already has enough Kim Kardashians and Kanye Wests, we need more Nelson Mandelas and Malala Yousafzais. More people who are willing to make a difference. So, when you leave today, I hope you are inspired to be that change in the world that we need because as I’ve written in countless responses this year, we are the cause of a lot of problems in the world but can also be the solution.
I would like to leave you with a quote by Jiddu Krishnamurti,
“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning” and we have our whole lives ahead of us, so I wish you, the graduating class of 2017, everything of the best for the future and I look forward to hearing about your successes because I know you’re all capable of great things.