Centenary Celebrations to Bring Transformation
What better way to celebrate centenary than forming partnerships that will bring transformation to the University in the times of South Africa’s transformation in the spirit of democracy.
Stellenbosch University (SU) has formed a partnership with Walter Sisulu University (WSU) as part of celebrating SU’s centenary. The University chose WSU as it is strategically situated on the birth province of the late President Nelson Rholihlahla Mandela who would have also been celebrating his 100th birthday.
Transformation director at Stellenbosch University, Monica du Toit, said, “Traditional partnerships between universities are PR exercises, we try and show our best products but we don’t really know each other and we don’t really influence one another in deeper meaningful ways. So we wanted to come here intentionally not with a PR exercise, but to come and experience and understand our own context better but also understand what we need to learn from Walter Sisulu University and how can we co-create different relationships.”
She further expressed that she thinks that their visit served the purpose they wanted to achieve and they are planning to maintain the relationship for further engagements and also invite WSU to visit SU to experience their culture.
The beginning of this partnership started with students and staff from both universities coming together to discuss issues facing their institutions and what better ways to learn from each other’s working strategies to see transformation in the institutions.
“The purpose of this partnership is to start dialogues between these universities to share experiences, challenges and share ideas on how we can attempt to change the situations we are facing and this is a start of many to come because transformation is not a single day event, it is a process, so till we reach where we want to be, we will continue to have these dialogues,” said WSU’s transformation manager, Lulamile Mbongo.
The three-day event began with a meet and greets session between staff and students of SU and WSU. The session was followed by a network session and cultural exchange discussions, where individuals got to know each other on a personal level as a way of creating comfortable spaces for further discussions.
Masters student in Philosophy , SU, Paulu Joubert, said “On a social level at SU we still have a lot of issues that we don’t know how to deal with, we have racism, we have sexism, and it’s like we haven’t integrated properly and we don’t know how to address these issues. We have Africans who are still a minority, whose voices aren’t heard and we don’t know how to deal with that.”
Joubert further explained, “So we came here to learn of the experiences of which SU is still lacking in. We hope for guidance on what can we do to face the injustices of the past and find a new way forward but we got more than that, we found connection, a relationship and friendship, which is more than what we bargained for.”
It was a night full of emotions when the representatives of both universities shared their personal experiences in their universities. The discussions ranged from sexual abuse issues to racial and inequality issues.
Sanele Ngcobo, who was a delegate of the Student Representative Counsel (SRC) said during the networking session he learned a lot about the vast differences that exist between the two universities which the other is predominantly white and the other predominantly black.
“One of the things that came through where the social disparities amongst the two universities, WSU mostly services students from disadvantaged backgrounds and SU services those who come from comfortable homes so their challenges will never be the same, we have different struggles as these two universities.”
The programme was closed with discussions on how the partnership can be nurtured and maintained to yield good results in the transformation journey taken by these two institutions.
“The experience here for him has just been an incredible eye opener as I sees my institution in a total different light compared to WSU. People here have been amazing in welcoming and embracing us and even though I am a white Afrikaans person, I feel welcomed and part of the things that are happening here, that experience was very touching for me,” said Joubert.
-Anita Roji & Ongezwa Sigodi