LRM EXPORT 296148327291985 20191016 121540139 e1573021219139 300x226WSU’s newest Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Academic Affairs and Research, Prof. Rushiela Songca shares her plans for research development at the University and her approach to the endless possibilities and challenges that come with the 4th Industrial Revolution’s academic disruption.


1 Please share a brief history about yourself and up-bringing:

I grew up in Lesotho, and also obtained my first degree at the National University of Lesotho. My parents were both educators having both obtained their tertiary education at the University of Fort Hare. I regard Lesotho as a place wherein I learnt the art of surviving both as a woman and also as a South African in a foreign land. The values and ways of being acquired in Lesotho growing up have shaped the way I view the world.

  1. What’s your highest qualification and why did you choose that area of study specifically?

I have a LLD degree and I specialised in children’s rights. Children and their rights have always been close to my heart growing up. Initially, advocacy on children was about recognising them as humans in their own right. Today is about balancing the rights and entitlements with their responsibilities. The protection of children in our society is still relevant and important especially given the rise in crimes committed by and against children which highlight their vulnerability.

  1. At what point in your life did it occur to you that you wanted to be in academia?

I always wanted to be an academic. I am fascinated by ideas and engaging with phenomena, moreover, I am passionate about contributing to the general well-being of society through education. I thus have always known that I was a teacher at heart.

  1. What have been some of the challenges that you had to face as a professional Black woman of your generation?

Challenges faced by women are multi-faceted, moreover, women have to juggle work and family. Being a woman and surviving as one, is most of the time determined by others and measured against societies perceptions/expectations, therefore women find themselves having to navigate these predetermined notions and expectations. Fortunately, over the years we have gotten used to setting our own agenda/rules of engagement, hence we learnt to exert our own authority and agency. Regardless, inequalities are manifold and glaring, hence the struggle for women self-determination still rages on.

  1. What attracted you to an institution like Walter Sisulu University (WSU)?

I think WSU has great potential and efforts are being made by the VC and his team to change the ethos of the University. I just want to be part of that change and be part of a team driving the agenda of academic renewal and excellence at WSU.

  1. WSU is a rural university servicing a majority of previously disadvantaged youth, as DVC AAR – what plans do you have to ensure academic standards of WSU catapult these students onto competitive levels with students from other urban institutions?

I think the first thing we must remind ourselves is that our students are as intelligent as those from privileged backgrounds. Therefore, given the same opportunities, good education and support they will equally perform or surpass their counterparts from privileged environments. We must get the academic project on track by protecting our programs through implementation of quality standards to maintain accreditation of our programs for example. We will also continue with our staff capacity programmes and other interventions as part of the strategy to consolidate the academic project. Student support programmes will be streamlined and they too must be part of this agenda. We must all work together to find workable solutions and avoid academic disruptions as much as we can because they have a negative impact on our reputation and academic standing. These are just but examples of activities we need to put in place to enhance the academic project at WSU.

  1. Third stream income is crucial for any organisation, especially with the calls for free quality education; what plans do you have to increase the research output and publications of WSU as a source of third stream income?

We need to put in place a gamut of strategies, albeit in a coherent fashion. We need to fashion strategies and investments that will make it possible to make third stream mainstream and a part of everything we do whilst generating revenue. Generating alternative income is not an easy task, therefore we must employ different strategies from developing a culture of giving among alumni to earning income through short learning programs for example.

  1. What is your opinion on the fact that large Tech companies such as Google are hiring skilled people rather than people with formal qualifications; where do you see the future of education/teaching and learning going?

Having a qualification is important, however, students must appreciate the importance of having other skills required for the market place. Having critical skills, technology skills and ability to work with others are important traits required for the job market.

  1. How can WSU better prepare its students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and 5G technologies when the country is already facing high levels of unemployment?

We need to optimize the use of technologies, ensure that our teaching methods help our students to become critical and analytical thinkers. They must be able to work independently and be able to interpret and apply knowledge to real life situations. It is thus important for us (academics and students) to always review and constantly reflect on our teaching methodologies and assessment strategies including how we put together our programs. Our support programs can go a long way in helping our students, but they should be willing to do the work. We need to look that the students’ learning experience holistically, for example, students need to learn how to engage and manage differences because if they spend most of their time on other issues unrelated to their learning this will impact on their employability etc.

  1. Which are some of WSU’s niche areas have you identified and seen as having potential to exalt our academic integrity and how do you plan to achieve this?

WSU has excellent programs in place that need to be supported and shared with the public, our medical school still stands out for me and I am aware of other projects that need to be strengthened and supported. At this point it is better to first better understand the work of the various projects and research initiatives, support and strengthen them into niche areas.