Vice-Chancellor Message – 04 August 2023

Dear UJ Community,

Next week Wednesday, 9 August 2023, marks 67 years since more than 20 000 women from across the nation united in a mass demonstration at the Union Buildings in Pretoria in protest against the unjust pass laws. Today, August is annually commemorated as Women’s Month in South Africa. It is a month when we reflect on and celebrate the achievements and significant roles that women from all walks of life have played and continue to play.

The struggle for gender equity and an inclusive society continues. 

We have made great strides as a country in the quest for gender equality. At UJ, we have seen the impact of powerful women in growing our institution. We have many extraordinary women in our midst – from our staff, students, and alumni. Yet, to say that South Africa has achieved equality would be a fallacy.

Negative perceptions and harmful stereotypes of women persist in our homes and workspaces. Many business practices still make it difficult for women to participate and achieve true inclusion and success. Gender inequality still persists because of our inability to fully embrace this process. It is a clear indication that we are yet to fully realise the democratic values that are enshrined in our Constitution.

We must tackle gender inequality head-on at an individual level, an institutional level, a national level, and an international level. We must be unwavering in our resolve to foster transparency and accountability on our campuses. As our Chancellor, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka once said, “Achieving gender equality is about disrupting the status quo – not negotiating it”. Watch a video in commemoration of Women’s Month below:

On this point, my latest opinion article, penned together with Mr Lebogang Seale (Senior Manager, Strategic Communications, UJ), urges us to rethink our world to achieve equality for women. I trust that you will find it an interesting read.

Congratulations to our women’s sports teams. 

In the spirit of disrupting the status quo, this week was an extraordinary week for South Africa’s women’s sports teams on the global stage. I wish to congratulate the women’s national football team, Banyana Banyana, for qualifying for the Women’s World Cup currently taking place in New Zealand. The team also made history when they progressed to the last 16 after they defeated Italy on Wednesday. I wish them only the best for their match against the Netherlands on Sunday.

I also congratulate our netball team, the Spar Proteas, for their sterling performance in the Netball World Cup currently taking place in Cape Town. The Proteas narrowly missed out on qualifying for the semi-finals of the global showpiece despite defeating Uganda yesterday, due to a mathematical goal difference. They had earlier on Wednesday claimed a historic draw against champions New Zealand. We say to all the ladies, “Halala”.

Award for UJ in higher education capacity building. 

On a different note, UJ submitted a proposal for the ERASMUS-EDU-2023-CBHE (Capacity building in the field of higher education Strand 2) with a project entitled “The Potential of Micro-credentials in Southern Africa.” The proposal was submitted via Dr Kirti Menon from the Division for Teaching Excellence with strong support from the International Office. It was submitted with UJ as the lead and with multiple partners, including the Council on Higher Education (CHE), the Department of Higher Education and Training and other partners in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.

I am delighted that this grant has been awarded to the value of €796 833 (almost R14 million). This capacity building in higher education (CBHE) project, a collaboration between Southern African and European universities and higher education councils, will systematically develop principles and policies for the recognition, quality assurance and regulation of micro-credentials in Southern African countries. Congratulations to Dr Menon and the team on this extraordinary feat!

Keeping up to date with the latest news through a new browsing experience. 

I wish to congratulate the Strategic Communications within the University Relations Division for launching the new UJ news website that is dedicated to showcasing our inspiring student and staff stories, groundbreaking research, and engaging multimedia content! It promises to keep our community and beyond up to date with the latest developments across our diverse faculties and departments. I have been impressed by the way the site offers a seamless browsing experience. Be sure that you #StayConnected!

High Tea with the VC

I invite you to the next edition of the hybrid High Tea with the VC book discussion on Friday, 18 August, at the usual time of 14:00 (CAT). We will be joined by Nicky Verd for a discussion of her book, Disrupt Yourself or be Disrupted: Escape Conformity, Reinvent Your Thinking and Thrive in an Era of Emerging Technologies and Economic Anxiety. Verd is a leading thinker on driving innovation through personal disruption and a human-centric digital transformation consultant focusing on people and culture. It goes without saying, “You cannot fight a battle you don’t understand.”

As usual, we will meet at the UJ Library, Chinua Achebe Auditorium, Level 6, at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus. For in-person attendance, kindly RSVP here. For virtual attendance via Zoom, please click here.

A note of thanks

Finally, I wish to thank Mr Dries Pretorius, our UJ General Counsel, for holding the fort while I was away on a working trip to Caucasus University (CU) in Tbilisi, Georgia. I thank our colleagues at CU for being generous hosts and especially for conferring me with an Honorary Doctorate. I would not have achieved that without the support of the UJ Community, and for that, I thank every one of you!

Kea a leboha, ngiyabonga, thank you, baie dankie!

Professor Letlhokwa Mpedi: Vice-Chancellor and Principal 

Times mentioned in this newsletter refer to the South African time zone.

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