31 May 2019
Dear UJ Alumni
This month has been a momentous period in our country, with Mr Cyril Ramaphosa's inauguration as the President and the subsequent announcement of his Cabinet this week on Wednesday (29 May 2019). The University of Johannesburg (UJ) wishes him and his newly-appointed Cabinet well in creating a prosperous and inclusive future for the people of our country. In announcing his Cabinet, President Ramaphosa said he "had taken a number of considerations into account, including experience, continuity, competence, generational mix and demographic and regional diversity". Most importantly, he highlighted the importance of accelerating "inclusive economic growth, act with greater urgency to tackle poverty, improve government, services, fight corruption and end state capture". This is particularly encouraging. Also pleasing is the fact that for the first time in the history of our country, half of all ministers are women.
In fact, a research analysis by Professor Talita Greyling, the Wellbeing Economist at our University and her counterpart at the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, shows that Mr Ramaphosa's ascend to the Presidential throne and his announcement of Cabinet has made South Africans happy. The pair has been following political events in South Africa since the week of elections, and developed the "Gross National Happiness Index (GNH) of South Africa" based on sentiment analysis of the daily tweets of South Africans, from which they derive a happiness score.
In as much as there have been huge strides made in improving our people's lives since the dawn of multiparty democracy 25 years ago, millions of South Africans continue to bear the brunt of a stagnating economy and its concomitant problems of unemployment and deprivation, worsened by poor service delivery and the scourge of malfeasance. I am, however, heartened by President Ramaphosa's assertion that the performance of the ministers and their deputies "will be closely monitored against specific outcomes, (and) where implementation is unsatisfactory, action will be taken".
On the home front, I am excited to announce that our University has been hard at work developing new courses and degrees that will prepare students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond. This week we launched a new BA degree with special focus on Politics, Economics and Technology (PET) – a first in the African continent. The new programme will be offered for the first time in January 2020. It is a collaboration between the Faculties of Humanities, Science and the College of Business and Economics. Please click here for more information.
This new venture extends to the commerce industry too. Our University has joined hands with the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA), to launch a first-of-its-kind series of short online learning programmes to equip accountants with skills to navigate the 4IR. Titled 4IR for Accountants, the series, launched on 22 May 2019, is the first of a suite of four courses, introducing 4IR. These topics include Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, Blockchain and Ethics. Present at the launch were SAICA executives Mr Freeman Nomvalo (CEO), Ms Chantyl Mulder (Executive Director: Nation-Building), Mr Willi Coates (Head of Marketing and Communication) and senior staff from SAICA, among other industry practitioners. Congratulations to all involved in putting these future-focused modules together!
It is always great that organisations and institutions show a strong involvement in uplifting the communities in which they operate. At UJ, community engagement is one of our core pillars not only in helping society, but also in training our students to be good ambassadors in their communities. I am pleased to inform you that our Community Engagement projects in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment won two first prize awards on Thursday, 23 May 2019 in two separate award ceremonies. These projects are conducted with our Electrical and Electronic Engineering Science partner, Schneider Electric.
The first prize award went to The Steel Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (SEIFSA): Best Corporate Social Responsibility project for the Isiboniso School Project, with the second prize awarded for the FSASEC. The other award went to The French South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FSACCI): Best Business Collaboration France/South Africa. This event was attended by various dignitaries, including the former President Kgalema Motlanthe, and the Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, together with the French Ambassador and CEO's of French Enterprises in South Africa, H.E. Christophe Farnaud. Congratulations to Prof Johan Meyer, the leader of the projects, and the entire team that works hard to make these efforts successful.
This week, the UJ Department of Anthropology and Development Studies and our Centre for Academic Technologies have been hosting an important conference on "Higher Education in South Africa: addressing inequalities experienced by students from rural contexts". The conference, which started on Wednesday, 29th and ends today the 31st of May 2019, is based on a research project by the Southern African Rurality in Higher Education (SARiHE) concluding a three-year investigation on the distinct challenges encountered by students from rural areas in accessing and participating fully and successfully in higher education.
The research project, which brought together three South African universities (UJ, Rhodes and Fort Hare) and two international universities (Bristol and Brighton), was funded by the ESRC/NRF/Newton Fund. Twenty-five, undergraduate students from rural backgrounds were recruited as co-researchers in each university. Results point at great differences in social and material conditions in the three university settings.
Findings include the importance of rural culture, values and knowledge for rural students coming into higher education. The findings also illustrate the importance of rural students relating to curricula that reflect their own lives and indigenous knowledge systems, something they seldom experience in higher education.
Please join me in congratulating Prof Dumisani Moyo, the Vice Dean (Teaching and Learning) in the Faculty of Humanities, on being elected to the African Studies Association (ASA) Board of Directors. Headquartered in the USA, ASA is a global association of scholars and professionals devoted to enhancing the exchange, production and dissemination of information about Africa, past and present. Prof Moyo joins other newly elected members: Prof Akosua Adomako Ampofo (University of Ghana), Prof Didier Gondola (Indiana University), and Vice President Elect, Prof Carolyn A. Brown (Rutgers University). Congratulations, Prof Moyo! We wish you well in this new role.
Lastly, I will be engaging with staff and postgraduate students on my fourth recommended book read, The Fourth Industrial Revolution by author Klaus Schwab, on Monday, 3 June 2019. These monthly Reading Group sessions take place in the Alan Paton boardroom on the third floor of the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus Library. I hope you will find the time to attend.
Thank you – have a great weekend!
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
University of Johannesburg