Durban: President Pratibha Patil on Sunday laid the foundation stone for an IT Centre at the Phoenix Settlement here, giving fillip to South Africa`s education sector and capacity building.
"This is an important step forward in India`s effort to help generate good quality, cost effective and relevant higher education and skills," Patil said while laying the foundation stone for the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Information Technology at the Phoenix Settlement, established by Mahatma Gandhi in 1904.
"The IT Centre will cater to the youth of communities around Phoenix Settlement with a view to empowering them to participate and benefit from the knowledge economy", she said.
Stressing that India and South Africa have a shared history and also a shared future, she said India was committed to work with the South African government to assist in capacity building and human resource development in South Africa and in Africa.
The President went round the Phoenix Settlement including Sarvodaya, the house where the Gandhi lived. The House was reconstructed after it was destructed in the 1985 riots apparently provoked by the then anti-apartheid regime.
Though the settlement had 100 acres of land bought by Gandhi when he was a lawyer, most of it has now been encroached with hutments coming up and just 8 acres remained with the Trust running the institution, one of its officials said.
Rugbeer Kallideen, Secretary and Trustee of the Settlement said that it was also running a school having some 800 students and most of them are locals. Prime Minister of Kwa-Zulu Natal province Zweli Mkhize was also present at the function.
Later along with the Kwa-Zulu Natal Prime Minister, Patil visited the John Dube memorial and placed a wreath there. A friend of the Mahatma, Dube was the first President of the African National Congress and is a revered and important figure in the history of South Africa.
Hailing Dube as a "great son of South Africa", Patil said "It is surely more than a simple coincidence that the crucible of Gandhi`s political awakening is located close to the site of one of the ANC`s founding leaders`. The President also met Lulu, the octogenarian daughter of Dube.
The early lives of Gandhi and Dube were largely parallel. Gandhi was born in 1869 and Dube in 1871. Gandhi studied in Britain from 1888 to 1891 and Dube in the United States from 1887 to 1892.
Dube returned to South Africa in 1892 and was employed as a teacher for several years; Gandhi went to South Africa in 1893 and stayed on for 21 years as a barrister and public worker.
Gandhi started `Indian Opinion` from Phoenix Settlement.
In the visitor`s book at the John Dube Memorial and Interpretation Centre, the President wrote: "I am sure the legacy of John Dube and other leaders of the ANC will continue to inspire ordinary South Africans as they seek to build a peaceful, prosperous and united country for the future".