In spite of heavy showers, convocants from across South Africa and beyond its borders attended the 2012 Convocation meeting which was held on 24 November at Unisa’s Muckleneuk Campus.
The meeting coincided with the yearly convenor’s workshop which took place on 23 November, allowing convenors from different chapters, including those from Mauritius and Namibia, to also attend Convocation. Every Unisa graduate with a degree or diploma is a member of Convocation.
Convocation is responsible for raising matters of concern about the development of the Unisa. The annual meeting provides first-hand information about the strategic direction of the university, policy formulations and other developmental issues.
President of Convocation, Dr Claudelle von Eck, was unable to attend this year’s meeting due to other business commitments. Her address was read by Peter Vundla, representative of Convocation on the Unisa Council and Chair of the African Merchant and Investment Bank.
Von Eck’s address focused on Unisa’s contributions to South Africa and Africa, as well as alumni supporting Unisa and how this support can be garnered. She said Unisa is a university which stands tall in the midst of reports of serious governance failures at too many academic institutions, “more than our educational landscape can afford”.
“Given the challenges in our education system, it is of paramount importance that our institutions of higher learning be above reproach in terms of governance, sustainability and delivery of service. A breakdown in this sector would create dire consequences for our country as our future lies within the young people, who are to be the foundation of our ability to compete in a globalised world. I am proud to be associated with a university that has a clear vision, strong governance structures and a diligent executive team. Given the size of this organisation, being strong in these dimensions is not an easy feat.”
Von Eck said Unisa’s vision is one of high ideals and is a strong call to all those who are associated with the university. “This includes us, the alumni – the products of Unisa – who collectively become the external face of the university. It is our deep understanding of that vision that compels us to play our respective roles in bringing that vision to fruition. Prof Makhanya has worked tirelessly to create a platform for us to understand and embrace a vision that has its sights way beyond the borders of this country. The leadership at the university has acknowledged that our responsibility to serve humanity is not only confined to South Africa, but that we have an obligation to the serve the continent.”
Prof Mandla Makhanya spoke on 2012: Taking stock and looking to the future – providing a reflection of 2012 and a glimpse into 2013. “When it comes to leading and managing an institution, one can never only look back on achievements, one must always have an eye to the future as well – to what still needs to be done to ensure the successful completion of this phase of our strategy and planning, but perhaps more importantly, to the conceptualisation and concretisation of the vision of what Unisa is capable of, and to which we aspire within the next five, ten, fifteen, or even twenty years.”
He assured Convocation members present that this process, while daunting, is also inspiring. “It is my view that those who do not dare to dream and who do not ensure that those dreams can be translated into reality are doomed to an existence of mediocrity, and in my book, Unisa and mediocrity simply do not feature side-by-side in any of my plans for this fantastic institution.”
Makhanya said that government and the people of South Africa and this continent have very high expectations of Unisa as the key player in the upliftment of its people, country and continent. “I sincerely believe that we can deliver whatever is required of us if we are committed to do so and prepared to make the effort and yes, even sacrifices sometimes, to see it through.
“Like most countries in the world we are going through a very tough time. Unisa cannot fail this country and our children, in their hour of need. We will continue to face our service delivery challenges with honesty, courage and determination and in a spirit of collaboration. I have every confidence that we will succeed.”
Heeding Makhanya’s call, members present (120 alumni and academic staff members, and 10 members of the executive) posed a diverse range of questions to the panel which included Makhanya, Unisa Pro Vice-Chancellor, Prof Narend Baijnath, and Unisa Registrar, Prof Mogege Mosimege. The questions and answers session generated more excitement about future endeavours of the university.
The next Convocation meeting will be held on 2 November 2013. For more information on the Unisa Convocation, click here.