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Forging ahead to enhance academic and institutional sustainability

On 10 February 2023, exuberant Unisans gathered at the university’s Muckleneuk Campus in Pretoria, while others joined the prestigious official opening ceremony of the 2023 academic year online to reflect on the 2022 highlights and positively envision the year that will be. The event began with meditation and reflections by different faith representatives. Unisa’s multimedia corporate video presentation showcased, among others, the institution’s academic resources, its excellence in providing access to quality education and producing world leaders.

Unisa’s leading lights graced the stage in their academic finery

Unisa’s leading lights graced the stage in their academic finery

In his welcome address, Chairperson of Unisa’s Council, Mashukudu James Maboa, said: “This august occasion provides an opportunity to reflect on the successes and challenges of the year before; and use them as lessons to inform our journey towards a Unisa that we envisage.” He added: “The occasion carries even greater significance this year as Unisa celebrates its 150th anniversary.” Maboa urged Unisans to reflect on the significant role that the university has played in the past fifteen decades, in shaping society and the higher education landscape in South Africa, on the African continent and globally.   

Maboa proudly stated that the institution has provided access to affordable quality education to, among others, the marginalised poor communities and South African struggle stalwarts who were imprisoned on the Robben Island. He acknowledged that it also produced illustrious graduates such as the late former South African President, Nelson Mandela, the late Anglican Archbishop Emeritus, Desmond Tutu, retired Deputy Chief Justice, Dikgang Moseneke, and the President of the Republic of South Africa, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa. “Now is the time to start a new culture where we can be proud ambassadors of brand Unisa by demonstrating commitment and excellence in our respective tasks,” he remarked.

Choral performances elicited thunderous applause

Choral performances elicited thunderous applause

Attendees were entertained with musical performances by Unisa’s talented musician, Angelo Vaaltyn, and the institution’s choirs. The university’s vice-principals of various portfolios then shared their 2022 highlights, and outlined how they plan to forge ahead in 2023. Among others, their 2023 plans include advancing collaborations locally and globally, enhancing postgraduate development, implementing the language policy, and strengthening risk and compliance within the institution.

Prof Puleng LenkaBula’s enthusiasm and energy were contagious as she delivered the main address

Prof Puleng LenkaBula’s enthusiasm and energy were contagious as she delivered the main address

Boldly reclaiming Afrika’s Intellectual Futures

In her address, Unisa’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC), Professor Puleng LenkaBula, asserted that the occasion was a moment to reaffirm the university’s commitment to its core mandate of teaching, learning, research, engaged scholarship, student academic support and resourcing the future. The VC added: “Our mandate goes beyond the institutional to shape our nascent democracy, as well as Afrika’s development ambitions as articulated in our long-term vision and plan – Agenda 2063.”

Taking pride in Unisa’s proud track record as the pioneer of the distance education model and in producing knowledge, and shaping histories and futures, the VC asserted that the university had established itself as the centre of academic excellence for Afrika and the globe. “As such,” she continued, “the 150-year milestone does not belong to Unisans or South Afrikans only, but also to the continent and the world. Our celebrations and reflections must live up to the identity of Unisa as a pan-Afrikan university serving humanity.”

The VC stated that this year’s theme is ‘Reclaiming Afrika’s Intellectual Futures’. Acknowledging various challenges facing the continent’s universities and intellectual communities such as the energy crisis and low economic growth, she said that the theme means such issues must be grappled with to create a deserved future. She encouraged Unisans to embrace a positive attitude as they forge ahead this year.

The VC noted that academic and student support remains critical for success and throughput rates, as well as competitiveness. She also gave the assurance that the core operations of the university will be optimised and strengthened through sound management of people, finances, technology, and the environment. Speaking about the university’s 150th anniversary, the VC concluded: “We need to celebrate gracefully in a manner that enables the academic project and institutional sustainability.”

In closing, Professor Simi Dube, Acting Deputy Executive Dean of Unisa’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology, expressed her appreciation to the VC for guiding Unisans, and encouraged everyone to continue the culture of excellence as the university claims Afrikan intellectual futures.

* By Nancy Legodi, Acting Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2023/02/10

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