Multimillion Rand transformative donation to UJ creates a centre to advance 4IR in underprivileged communities

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) is thrilled to announce that it has received a R110 million donation towards the advancement of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) in underprivileged communities. The generous donation was made by Growing Up Africa (GUA), a non-profit organisation that drives research-based development and design to build and equip resilient education structures for needy communities. This was made possible by Ms Deborah Terhune, the founder and Chief Executive of GUA, who conceived the project.

The donation is already bearing fruit, with the development of an Education Campus Project in Devland (Soweto), south of Johannesburg. The campus is a world class facility designed to support education and community development with a focus on 4IR learning that responds to a competitive and ever-evolving global environment.

The planned use of the campus includes the establishment of a centre to advance science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics for the benefit of the youth and the community, and ultimately, for ecological, social, and economic sustainability. UJ has collaborated with Accenture to train 130 students this year, and this number is expected to grow to 300 by 2024. Upon completion of the relevant course with UJ and the Advanced Youth Centre, the graduates will have the opportunity for placement within Accenture’s partners or client networks. The campus will become a model for investment projects with a positive impact on previously disadvantaged communities. It campus will also support related fields, such as adult education.

The Devland Soweto Education Campus comprises a state-of-the-art building that consists of a series of multipurpose teaching spaces, including classrooms and a lecture hall. Other facilities include an open-plan work areas, a canteen, ablutions as well as storerooms and administrative offices anchored by an impressive auditorium. The site’s outdoor spaces offer tree-shaded outdoor seating, an amphitheatre, an expansive double-height porch overlooking the main access to the site, a guardhouse, parking, and a refuse building. The main building’s most recognisable feature is its soaring roofline. Over 12 meters high at its peak, the roofline symbolises the hopes and dreams that the campus will lead to a life-changing future for Devland.

Ms Terhune said she initiated the project because of her passion to address unemployment, especially through digital skills. She believes this is a viable way to contribute towards 4IR in South Africa and on the African continent. Describing her approach to the project’s impressive landscape design, she said: “Through its strength and permanence, the building’s robust concrete superstructure communicates its firm commitment to the community.”

Ms Terhune was inspired by the work of philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie who believed that the best way to use his wealth was to build libraries and universities, providing the ladders upon which the aspiring can rise. “I chose UJ because the University’s 4IR strategic objective resonated with her mission and vision.”

About 225 companies, suppliers, service providers, consultants, contractors and professionals embraced Deborah’s mission, donating in-kind materials and services – proving that CASH is just one of many resources that can be used purposefully to satisfy human needs. Ms Terhune said stakeholders who support and promote STEM are welcome to participate in the project.

At a lecture for the students from UJ, visiting New York City design architect, William Reue, described how the inspiration for the window calibration was based on musical notes. “Every building deserves a song,” he explained. “It is now time for this building to sing!”

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, UJ’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, thanked Growing Up Africa for the generous donation, saying the project is deeply rooted in the University’s strategic mission to address the country’s economic inequalities and to bridge the gap in digital technologies, as underpinned by its agility in the 4IR space.

“This project resonates with UJ’s mission to inspire and serve humanity through innovation and the collaborative pursuit of knowledge. As a University, we appeal to other companies to contribute towards similar projects aimed at nurturing community ‘netpreneurship’ (cyber-based entrepreneurship) by offering programmes aligned to the fourth industrial revolution.”

Related: UJ/Accenture take technology to under-resourced communities


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