College of Human Sciences

Twenty years of Christian education partnership celebrated

Sizakele Magubane (Deputy Director: Strategic Partnerships, Unisa), Prof Rothney Tshaka (Director: School of Humanities, Unisa), Prof Andrew Phillips (ED: CHS, Unisa), Prof Dr Christoph Stenschke (Chairperson: GBFE), Prof Mandla Makhanya (Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Unisa), Prof Dr Tobias Faix (GBFE) & Dr Debora Sommer (GBFE)

“I must thank our theology team; the scholarship they have provided over the years has been of great benefit to this university,” said Unisa's Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mandla Makhanya, at the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between Unisa and the Association for Education and Research in Europe (GBFE).

This partnership, established in 1998 in the College of Human Sciences (CHS), has been a very exciting venture for Unisa and the college. The cooperation between GBFE, an international and intercultural network of Christian educational institutions, and Unisa began within the university’s theology cluster. It is a non-governmental organisation that promotes international studies and research projects in the fields of culture, religion, theology and community, and recruits European postgraduate students to study at Unisa. Its task and purpose is to enable GBFE students to receive a well-founded academic postgraduate education.

Owing to its success, there has been a growth in interest and the partnership has expanded to other disciplines within CHS, such as Development Studies and Psychology. An academic board is responsible for all issues related to academics in the GBFE-Unisa network. These include the development of new courses, quality control, acceptance criteria for students and contact with the people in charge of the respective disciplines at Unisa. Many GBFE professors are also research fellows and professors extraordinaire within the College of Human Sciences and they contribute to Unisa’s research output by conducting joint research and publishing with Unisa scholars.

The VC said that the Unisa GBFE relationship was one the university valued very much and it was important to support areas of success constantly.

Chairperson of the GBFE, Prof Dr Christoph Stenschke, expressed his gratitude to Unisa, explaining how they had seen through the university the country’s transformation from the “old” South Africa into the “new” one. He also said that he was thankful for the contribution of former Executive Dean, Prof Rosemary Moeketsi.

He concluded: “We will continue to enrich each other. We have certainly learnt a lot and we hope that we have been able to return some of that as well.”

Two of the GBFE students, Dr Debora Sommer and Prof Dr Tobias Faix, shared similar sentiments to Stenschke. “We are the fruit of this cooperation. We started as students, then partners; we have grown up, we are now family.”

CHS Executive Dean, Prof Andrew Phillips, also welcomed the renewal of this relationship, highlighting that the college takes decoloniality and Africanisation seriously and that GBFE colleagues also understood the importance of this.

*By Rivonia Naidu-Hoffmeester