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Vice-Chancellor calls on Unisans to focus on core business and service excellence

Prof Mandla Makhanya, Principal & Vice-Chancellor of Unisa

Held in ZK Matthews Great Hall, the 2019 academic opening ceremony attracted a large joyous crowd on 15 February 2019. The ceremony did not only examine the rising tide of student dissatisfaction, but it retold the university’s vision and promoted transformation strategies, encouraging staff to recover service excellence.

Delivering his address, Unisa’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mandla Makhanya cautioned Unisans to never lose focus on the core business and key stakeholders. He declared a "war" on all forms of laxity and dereliction at Unisa. "We neither need nor want passengers, but we need consistent performers who will add value to the university and deliberately advance its agenda," he said.


Navigating service delivery through transformation and the 11 Cs+1

Makhanya pleaded for accountability and expressed his expectation of a full day’s work from all Unisans. "If we were all to practise the 11 Cs+1, this university would be transformed overnight," he rebuked. Furthermore, he enjoined everyone to work with him as he continues to lead the transformation agenda and advocates quality service delivery to Unisa students. "I trust that all our academics will come on board to ensure that the academic project achieves its full potential, and that it won’t be left to the few to shoulder the project of transformation upon which we have embarked," said the VC.

In an attempt to improve academic relevance and excellence, Makhanya encouraged Unisans to develop appropriate pedagogical models and practices to promote active participation in the fourth industrial revolution, being community and stakeholder engaged. "Let us not underestimate the seriousness of the responsibility that rests on our shoulders right here and right now - especially when we claim to be shaping futures in the service of humanity," he added. The university must, therefore, also reflect decolonial knowledge systems, which seek to disrupt Northern epistemologies and replace them with knowledge systems that reflect humanities contribution to development from all continents. He argued further that the university should also aim to contribute to the development of African languages as languages of science and commerce.

"I say working at Unisa can never just be a job." ~  VC

"Each one of us must be excited about our students and their success. I want us to turn a corner in improving chances of success of our students." For me, teaching is a calling, noted the VC, distinguishing between people who choose to teach because of a calling and those who want just a job. He denounced the latter, saying they were obviously at the wrong place because Unisa students need teachers and admin staff who genuinely care. "I say working at Unisa can never just be a job," he said to loud cheers.

In conclusion, the VC encouraged Unisans to look inward, examine consciences and self-correct. "We must commit to give in full measure that which we would like our children and generations to come, to receive," said Makhanya.


Chair of Council raises serious concerns

Mr Sakhi Simelane, Unisa's Chairperson of Council

In his welcome address, Sakhi Simelane, Chairperson of Unisa Council, expressed his concerns regarding the university’s enrolment patterns, low throughput rates and the quality of qualifications. "We must fulfil all the structures laid by the Department of Higher Education and Training, Council of Higher Education and the South African Qualifications Authority." At the same time, he acknowledged the improved research output compared to the previous years.

"Furthermore," he said, "we must therefore increase the numbers of black and women students enrolled for the Science, Technology, and Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects; no college must be undersubscribed by students from these designated groups."

"Yet the yardstick that we should use for any improvements should not be the low output rates of the yesteryears. Our yardstick must be the size and strategic importance of this university."

Simelane advocated for a resilient university in order to survive and prosper. He made a call to Unisans to continue building an institution that can withstand the challenge from other universities, which are expanding their open and distance learning offerings. "Ours should remain the best!"

In addition, he further said: "We must position the university to remain relevant and respond to the developmental needs of both the country and the continent. Ours is a university located within and serving a developing country and emerging economy. Unisa must therefore influence the shape and content of the ideal society that we all wish for - a prosperous society whose resources are shared equitably by all."

Unisa male voices

Simelane urged Unisans to ensure that they rolled up their sleeves and made Unisa a beacon of excellence. He made a call to students to work hard and take advantage of the excellent offerings that were at their disposal, as they prepared themselves for future contributions to make South Africa and the African continent dynamic spaces to live in.

He concluded by pledging his support to the VC, management committee, entire staff and the student body:
We shall continue to work hard and selflessly to make this institution a university of choice."


Awards of quality service delivery

Prof Lindiwe Zungu (Executive Dean, College of Graduate Studies & Programme Director)

One of the best parts of the ceremony was when Unisans and students received recognition through various awards and certificates in different categories. These were categorised as Chairperson of Council Awards for Excellence, College Graduate Excellence Awards, Senate Awards, Council Awards and the University of Maryland University College certificates.

The Unisa choir and male voices entertained the audience throughout the programme. A decolonial prayer was delivered by Prof Thinandavha Mashau from the Department of Christian, Spirituality, Christ History and Missiology in recognition of all diverse groups within the university, and he recited a scripture to revive the spirit of Unisans in a new academic year.

* By Lesego Ravhudzulo, Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/02/19