PROF MS MAKHANYA, PRINCIPAL AND VICE CHANCELLOR UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AFRICA WELCOMING REMARKS HRDC COUNCIL MEETING JAKES GERWEL BUILDING, UNISA SCIENCE CAMPUS, FLORIDA 22 June 2018
Overview of the work of Unisa
The Honourable Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, Deputy President David Mabuza, MP Minister of Higher Education and Training, Minister Naledi Pandor, MP Ministers and deputy Ministers in attendance today Members of Council My colleagues in executive management Unisa staff and students in attendance
A very warm Unisa welcome to this beautiful Florida Science Campus, which I am sure has been a revelation to many of you.
Post the merger of the old Unisa, the erstwhile TSA and incorporation of Vista-VUDEC into the new Unisa in 2004, thanks to visionary leadership and sound and transparent governance and financial management, Unisa was able to identify this campus as a site for the flourishing of STEM. We were able to forge ahead, bringing to fruition a vision and dream – which you have seen on your tour this morning. On 30 July 2013, on behalf of the University of South Africa and the Department of Science and Technology (represented by Minister Derek Hanekom at that time) we officially inaugurated the Unisa Science Hub or Campus as it is now called. There are few other facilities such as this one in this province and in our Country and continent. It is in fact, a national asset.
Science, technology and innovation continue to be at the vanguard of socio-economic development nationally and globally, and since I took up office at Unisa, the positioning and advancement of these, particularly through research, has been a key strategic institutional goal. Beginning with the establishment of a dedicated Research and Innovation portfolio, we systematically promoted research and
innovation (especially in science and technology) institutionally and through partnership and engagement with a broad array of stakeholders nationally and globally; including for example, our Ministry of Science and Technology and BRICS. We have invested heavily in this campus (far in excess of 1 billion rands). The Unisa Science Campus is a “green” campus, which was built using energy-efficient design principles. Since sustainability is one of Unisa’s key research focus areas, every part of the construction, from the concrete to the bicycle parking area, has been designed with the environment in mind. The Campus offers state-of-the-art laboratories and high-end equipment, to advance science education and research at a national level. It contains 12 buildings, a library, two auditoriums and a large study area. The laboratories are for teaching and learning, and research purposes. The modern facilities and equipment not only enable the training of both undergraduate and postgraduate students, but also attract international scholars and researchers to the campus to do research or participate in collaborative research activities. The campus is intended to grow research capacity and support research in the fields of science, engineering and technology, and in the agricultural and environmental sciences utilizing the state-of-the-art
training and practical facilities, thus providing the space for our staff and students to grow and develop – to match theory and practice and to translate theory into practice, for example, in molecular biology, engineering, physics, chemistry and agricultural sciences, to name but a few. I should also mention our horticultural centre, which is playing a leading role in this field. This centre is a multi-purpose research and training facility designed to meet the education and research needs of students in a range of programmes including agriculture, ornamental horticulture and nature conservation. By also offering short learning programmes and conducting industry-centred research, the centre ensures its relevance to the broader community and green industry.
Deputy President, Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Unisa is aware that this is not an investment that one would consider typical for an ODL institution, but in our view it makes perfect sense in that these facilities, combined with our ODeL business model and our strategy going forward, will take all of the benefits inherent in ODeL together with the pragmatism of practical application and instruction, to a new level. We are harnessing and marrying our reach, our technological and HR capacities and capabilities, our infrastructure, and our resources to the benefit of our students who have chosen Unisa as their alma mater and who have never before had the
opportunity to study the sciences – precisely because of limitations around facilities. It is our belief and indeed our sincere desire, that this facility will in fact contribute to growing the numbers of science and technology students, scientists and researchers in South Africa, and on the Continent and abroad, and that it will in fact become a South African and global exemplar of what can be achieved through the kinds of collaborations and sharing set out in the SDGs and our White Paper for Post School Education and Training (2012).
That process has already borne fruit in the shape of our nanotechnology initiative and a number of newly forged partnerships and collaborations. Indeed, we trust that future partners and collaborators know that Unisa is accessible and receptive to their approaches. At the launch of the Science Campus, Minister Hanekom stated: “Unisa is using open distance e-learning to make studying, most often restricted to brick and mortar laboratories and lecture theatres, available to students whose circumstances would otherwise preclude a career in science and technology…. This will give a tremendous boost to the ability of the Department of Science and Technology to fund and direct research and human capital development in a strategic and co-
Ordinated manner”. We trust that this will continue to be the case going forward.
In conclusion, our honourable Deputy President, Ministers and colleagues, at the recent HRD Summit you stressed the need for these programmes such as for example, foundation education, research and innovation and so on to mesh with, and advance, national imperatives and highlighted the importance of establishing and strengthening new and existing networks between the various stakeholders who attended the summit. The summit, which was themed, ‘Partnerships revitalising work and learning’, brought together industry leaders, labour experts and academics to deliberate on issues including youth unemployment, empowerment and the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Unisa is putting up its hand and saying Thuma mina – we are ready and willing to be a key part of the solution. We have the wherewithal and the will. We invite you to partner with us in using and promoting the uses of these fantastic facilities, and we ask for your support as we realise the vision and do justice to our investment of and in an African Science Campus shaping futures in the service of humanity.