A discussion on the legacy of the former President of the United States Barack Obama was hosted by UKZN’s School of Social Sciences in partnership with the US Consulate General in Durban.
The debate on the Howard College campus began with comments by the First Secretary for Political Affairs at the United States Embassy in Pretoria, Ms Tomika Konditi, who focused on Obama’s initiatives to promote youth and education during his historic term of office.
The event itself was held to commemorate Black History Month and to celebrate the political legacy of the first African American President of the United States.
Konditi gave a personal account as an African American woman of how she felt with the First Family reflecting her heritage. ‘I felt a sense of pride. With the Obamas being in the White House, it allowed the world to see African Americans in a different light and dispelled stereotypes we are sometimes associated with.’
She further explained how Obama had encouraged minority students to pursue a post-secondary qualification.
Konditi reflected on the #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa while also revealing that American students have similar demands because of rising tuition costs and have been protesting for a better investment in education.
She spoke about initiatives Obama created to address this issue such as college repayment plans, debt forgiveness plans, increased federal grants, mentorship programmes such as My Brother’s Keeper, campaigns targeting the education of girls called Let Girls Learn, and programmes which promoted education outside US borders such as the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).
‘Obama wanted to make tertiary education more affordable and to get the youth excited about the future and education, leading to college success,’ said Konditi.
She also showed a succession of video clips about Obama’s various education programmes. This led to a robust discussion between Konditi and UKZN students on the current state of American politics and the legacy of Obama.
UKZN Politics Lecturer Dr Lubna Nadvi said: ‘This lecture raised some critical points of discussion from students. And we hope to continue this partnership with the US Consulate for yet another lecture.’