Vice-Chancellor Message – 12 August 2022

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Dear UJ Community,

There is interesting news that I have been wanting to share with you regarding an important development coming out of one of Africa’s countries. However, I kept on procrastinating because of compelling and pressing issues on the home front. Some of you might be aware that in April this year, Kenya announced that it was introducing coding and computer programming teaching in public schools.

The Kenyan government said new content would be implemented across the country in primary and secondary schools under the “Kenya National Digital Master plan 2022-2032”. The initiative, otherwise known as the Digital Literacy Programme, is aimed at equipping 20 million Kenyans with relevant digital skills to enable citizens to operate effectively under the digital economy. This has seen the government distributing more than 1.2 million laptops for learners in public schools as well as connecting electricity to more than 22,000 schools.

I cannot begin to emphasise just how important this is, at least from a South African perspective. As highlighted in the Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), of which I was the Deputy President, South Africa’s public education system is severely underperforming in equipping learners with the necessary skills to become productive labour participants. Also disconcerting is that only a quarter of South African secondary school learning are work ready, according to a study by the World Bank. This is compared to 96% in Singapore.

However, there are vast opportunities available in South Africa to explore this if resources are effectively allocated and utilised through a well-defined strategy. As highlighted in the Commission, a key strategy for South Africa is to ensure the preparation of the younger generation for jobs of the future that may not exist at this moment in time. Through the process of upskilling youth about 4IR, young people could use these skills gained to follow an entrepreneurial path that would allow them to be job providers and not job seekers. This can be invaluable in adding an advantage to the South African economy, isn’t it?

On this note, I am happy to announce that our University, through the Global Excellence and Stature (GES 4.0) programme, the Strategic Initiatives and Administration Division, invites UJ staff applications for upskill and proposal development activities with a specific focus on 4IR, linked to the 4.0 initiative. 4IR Upskill applications must include details on:

  • Workshop to be hosted/attended, linked to the skill to be acquired.
  • How will the knowledge/skill be shared within the UJ home/research environment?
  • How would this improve the workplace/research environment processes & workforce?
  • Motivation for financial support (include line-item budget).
  • Measurable outputs/impact to be achieved by applicant/workshop.

Proposal Development applications must include details on motivation for financial support and measurable outputs/impact to be achieved. Applications should be submitted to The call will remain open until funds have been awarded.

For a long period now, celebrating achievements, individually and collectively, has become part of our University DNA. To this end, I am pleased to announce that following a request from Prof Saurabh Sinha, DVC: Research and Internationalisation, and members of MECA (under the leadership of Prof Letlhokwa Mpedi, DVC: Academic), UJ has developed an online app to note and further celebrate the awards and recognition that our staff, postdoctoral fellows, students and alumni receive. We believe celebrating small and big achievements will enable for more, and for individuals, to excel at all levels.

Please inform us of your achievements as UJ staff, postdoctoral fellows, students, and alumni by providing a short   description of your accomplishment, including photographs – these submissions will help us celebrate your achievements on our various platforms including social media, newsletters, and/or websites. In the backend, the system generates reporting which will aid in compiling annual reports, newsletters, etc.

You can access AppLAUD@UJ directly from the intranet (under online forms), by scanning the QR code, or by clicking on the following link For additional information, please contact Prof Bettine van Vuuren, Senior Director: Strategic Initiatives and Administration (

At the beginning of my term as Vice-Chancellor, I established the African Biographies Project. I was worried that we don’t have a lot of books written about prominent Africans drawn from all spheres such as culture, science, academia, politics, business, etc.  The project is located at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study (JIAS) under the leadership of Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, the director. As extension of this project, JIAS is partnering with Wikipedia in an effort aimed at writing biographical entries of African leaders on that platform.

This initiative is led by Dr Bongani Ngqulunga together with Prof Vukosi Marivate from the University of Pretoria, who is my former student. Another element of the African Biographies Project involves supporting writing of memoirs by prominent African leaders. Ms Barbara Masekela, one of the figures in the liberation struggle and former ambassador to the United States of America and France, is currently a fellow at JIAS where she is writing her memoirs.

Starting from Monday next week, the Karl Mittermaier Centre for Philosophy of Economics based at JIAS will host a symposium on the philosophical foundations of economics, focusing particularly on the works of Karl Mittermaier. The symposium will bring to the University of Johannesburg some of the leading scholars in the field from all over the world. The symposium happens at a moment when the scholarship of Karl Mittermaier after whom the centre is named is receiving the attention of economists and philosophers worldwide.

On a different note, it has been encouraging to see many South Africans rallying against gender-based violence (GBV) and related crimes of femicide in recent days. I have on numerous occasions explained that as a society – men, women, government, corporate and civil society – we need to improve our efforts and invest in resources to support programmes that are meant to curb this scourge that is devouring the moral fibre of our society.

Critical to this is to mobilise men to play an active part in initiatives to end violence directed towards women and children. We should continue to encourage men to take the lead in changing patriarchal and negative social norms, often perpetuated in the name of culture or religion. Of course, it is not just women and children who at the receiving end of abuse, but it also affects those in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transexual and intersexed (LGBTI) community.

It was pleasing to see our very own Prof Corné Davis being nominated for the 2023 Woman of Stature South African awards. Prof Davis led a research report titled The Costly Impact of GBV: Private Sector Perceptions and Realities in South Africa, which was launched yesterday by our incoming Chancellor, Dr Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka. As the report title suggests, it “highlights the need for the private sector to address the reality of GBV in the workplace as it formulates company policy and structures of governance.

Collaborating on the research was Mid Sweden University and the Shared Value Africa Initiative supported by KPMG South Africa”. Well done on the nomination and the thought provoking research, Prof Davis. I trust your work inspires more UJ staff and students to contribute towards ending this pandemic.

As communicated last week, and in commemoration of Women’s Month, our University will host a series of events and seminars focusing on women’s empowerment under the theme, Women’s Socio-Economic Rights and Empowerment: Building Back Better for Women’s Improved Resilience. After two successful events last week – a Public Lecture under the theme, ‘The need for multidisciplinary collaboration for addressing gender-based violence’ as well as a webinar (hosted by IPATC), under the theme, ‘Women’s Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa’, UJ will host two more events today, under the themes Women’s self-defence class and Human Capital Management women’s luncheon.

I also wish to remind you of the second round of the UJ Cleaning Campaign, which started last week across all four campuses, from 12:00 to 13:00. Please note of remainder of the schedule, which is as follows:

  • 12 August 2022: APK (Auckland Park Kingsway Campus).
  • 19 August 2022: SWC (Lembede Garden is the assembly and final point).

Next week on Thursday, 18 August, our University will host an important event on its year calendar, the 2021 Stakeholder Report Launch, from 17:00 – 18:30. The hybrid event will be held from Madibeng Conference Centre under the theme, Leading in the Face of Global and National Socio-Economic Challenges: Instruments for local solutions?, and Mr. Peter Armitage, founder and CEO of Anchor Capital and analyst, will be the guest speaker.

This is a platform where the Chair of UJ Council Mr. Mike Teke and myself share and reflect on the achievements, successes and challenges of the past year with our internal and external stakeholders. To tune in, please click here

I wish to thank each of you who attended the UJ Press and Exclusive Books Rosebank launch of This Generation Leads: The Latest Leadership Ideas from South Africa, edited by Mr Muzi Kuzwayo and Mr Mike Teke, yesterday, at Exclusive Books Rosebank Mall. The book is published on our online UJ Press Open Monograph Press.

Still on book matters, I wish to invite you to the VC August Hybrid 2022 Reading Group today, at the usual timeslot of 14h00 (CAT), in Room, Level 3, Auckland Park Campus. This time, we will discuss the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. “This extraordinary account shows us that miracle workers, believers, and con artists populate hospitals and churches and that even a science writer may find herself playing a central role in someone else’s mythology”, according to a review by The New Yorker. Prof Sehaam Khan, our Executive Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, will be the respondent.

  • To join in the conversation, click here:
  • In-person attendance: the University of Johannesburg Library, Alan Paton Board

Kea leboga, enkosi, baie dankie, ndi a livhuwa, thank you!

Issued by:

Professor Tshilidzi Marwala

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

University of Johannesburg             

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

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