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Dean of Students fêtes student leaders, IEC

On Thursday, 22 November 2018, Unisa’s Dean of Students, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, hosted a celebratory event at the main campus entitled ‘145 years of student leadership’.

Speakers and guests getting into the spirit of the evening

In his opening remarks Prof Mandla Makhanya, Unisa’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC), said that one of the most innovative and successful programmes of the Unisa Student Representative Council (SRC) during his tenure has been the involvement of the Unisa Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

‘This year,’ he said, ‘we achieved another seminal milestone, that of electronic voting, which has succeeded beyond our expectations. Coming from a platform of low participation, the university has seen steady growth with well over 50 000 students voting in the most recent SRC elections. We are also pleased with the role of the SRC in securing a better learning experience for our students and I look forward to seeing how this is going to materialise in the future.’

Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, Dean of Students

Prof Mandla Makhanya, Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Sakhi Simelane, Unisa's Chairperson of Council

Dr Bandile Hadebe, Managing Director, Progressive Youth in Business, Etaform: Middle East and Africa

Students must top agenda

In addition, the VC mentioned that leadership without an ethos of ethics, integrity, service and discipline is not leadership at all. ‘I think we could rather call it populism or autocracy, or just plain greed, and we need to avoid such labels at all costs,’ he added. ‘Let us build on the approach to student leadership that places studies and students at the top of the agenda. If we do

that, I truly believe that we will be setting a course, not only for improved success and throughput rates, but also for the growth and development of a leadership cadre who will stand comfortably and proudly on the shoulders of the giants who have gone before them.’

In his concluding remarks, the VC raised his concerns regarding the dearth of women in the SRC. ‘We can do so much better,’ he said. ‘I would like us to get to a place where we have gender equity in our SRC. Let us work on that going forward.

Unisa’s Chairperson of Council, Sakhi Simelane, congratulated the new SRC members and said that students are a constituency that has been at the centre of the university. ‘Students should remain focused, find their inner strength and continue the struggle on behalf of students and higher education institutions,’ he said.

Position knowledge and skills to solve broader issues

Delivering the keynote address, Dr Bandile Hadebe, Managing Director, Progressive Youth in Business, Etaform: Middle East and Africa, said that Unisa had the institutional capacity and intellectual resources to make a critical contribution to the many important challenges confronting South Africa. ‘We

are challenged as current graduated student leadership to interrogate and to conduct a thorough introspection on what legacy we are behind,’ exclaimed Hadebe. ‘It is very easy to quote the achievements of Steve Biko, Barney Pityana and the others, but what would be quoted about us?’

Hadebe said that the heroic former student leaders did not deal exclusively with education-focused issues and that this is why we now always quote them every single time we speak. ‘They saw themselves as organs of society who, beyond the immediate challenge of education, positioned their knowledge and experience to deal with broader societal issues,’ he said. ‘Beyond education, how are we positioning ourselves as agents for change, agents for transformation and agents for a better South Africa? There’s a certain paradigm shift that needs to quickly happen amongst the current student’s leadership, when we done dealing with transformation issues. We need to ask ourselves what society we are going back to when we leave these beautiful buildings? And how are we positioning our skills to improve the plight of others? One of the things we have failed to do in 1994 was to bring everyone with us – in simple terms, we have failed to restore properly the dignity of our people. It becomes our duty to do that now.’

Students should be employment creators, not employment seekers

‘As we celebrate 145 years of student leadership,’ noted Hadebe, ‘we need to drive aggressive curriculum reform so that we don’t graduate as employment seekers, but rather employment creators. The current unemployment rate show that it is not sufficient for us to continue to learn how to write fancy CVs, yet not know how to draft a business model. You are not going to find the jobs you are looking for if you don’t create them yourselves.’

Other speakers on the programme included Dr Faroon Goolam, University Registrar, Prof Olga Makhubela-Nkondo, Unisa Department of Health Studies, Console Tleane, Unisa SRC Convenor 1995 – 1996, Reverend Nango Enock, Unisa SRC President 1996 – 1998, Sabelo Mhlungu, Convocation President, Vuyo Mhaga, Unisa SRC member 2000 – 2005,  Thabo Rabalao, Unisa SRC member 2005 – 2010, Zandile Sodladla, Unisa SRC President 2016 – 2018, Wadzanai Mazhetese current Unisa SRC President and Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, Dean of Students.

As befits any milestone celebration at Unisa, dancing and the singing of struggle songs were the order of the day, and the brilliant Muzo band made it a night to remember.

By Lesego Ravhudzolo

Publish date: 2018-11-29 00:00:00.0