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Vice-Chancellor Message – 16 February 2024

Dear UJ community,

With the 2024 Academic Programme beginning in earnest this week, it has been wonderful to revel in the vibrancy of our campuses once again. Our students have returned, and chatter and laughter are aplenty across campuses. While strolling around this week, I overheard some students discussing current affairs within and outside the country with much enthusiasm.

A vibrant and enriching University

This can only be expected because universities are spaces for intellectualism and critical thinking. UJ is a vibrant and lively intellectual community where debate is important to learning. Listening to each other’s points of view about the state of our country and having assumptions challenged and interrogated with fresh perspectives not only helps enrich our knowledge but also helps positively shape our democracy.

Celebrating 30 Years of Democracy in South Africa

In this regard, it is pleasing to see that our Sociology, Anthropology, and Development Studies departments have initiated a 30 Years of Democracy Seminar Series. The seminars began this week on Wednesday, 14 February, and will continue until 3 April 2024. Over the next eight weeks, a wide range of topics will be discussed, including internationalism and geopolitics, climate and energy crises, and economic justice opportunities. Guest speakers will include political economist Moeletsi Mbeki, and other analysts, such as Zen Mathe, Dale Mckinley and Lebohang Pheko.

The inaugural seminar, titled Framing Tough Conversations about SA Democracy: The Role of the Media, featured insights from Prof Ylva Rodny-Gumede (Senior Director: Division for Internationalisation and a Professor in the School of Communication at UJ), and producers of The Big Debate show, Ben Cashdan and Nolwazi Tusini. I thank Prof Rodny-Gumede and her team for this exciting initiative. To read more about this, click here.

World Radio Day

Our Department of Communication and Media hosted a seminar titled A Century of Informing, Entertaining, and Educating the Nation, as part of the commemorations of UNESCO World Radio Day on Tuesday, 13 February. Held at the Auckland Park Kingsway Campus, the seminar brought together a diverse array of speakers from the government and academia as well as policymakers and experts in the broadcast industry.

Among them were Dr Prinola Govenden (Senior Lecturer in UJ’s Department of Communication and Media), Dr Mashilo Boloka (Chief Executive of the Film and Publication Board (FPB), and Nada Wotshela (Group Executive, SABC Radio).

UJ strengthens STEM for high school learners

One of the enduring challenges in the South African school system is the lack of skilled teachers in the field of Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Innovation (STEMI), especially in schools from historically disadvantaged areas. Recognising this gap, UJ’s Faculty of Science, in partnership with the National Department of Basic Education (DBE), has launched a groundbreaking initiative to train teachers in the field.

Launched at the Bunting Road Campus (APB) on Wednesday, February 14, the project will employ a multifaceted strategy that includes workshops for teachers and subject specialists. The initiative is supported by key stakeholders such as the private sector and the DBE. The Minister of Basic Education, Hon Angie Motshekga, was amongst the dignitaries who graced the launch event. I wish to thank Prof Annah Moteetee (Executive Dean: Faculty of Science) and her colleagues for this important initiative – well done, colleagues!

UJ athlete bags silver in Dubai  

Please join me in congratulating our athlete, Yane van der Merwe, who won a silver medal in the 2024 World Para Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, 13 February 13. She achieved a record-breaking 31.88-meter throw in the discus class F44 (a category for athletes with a lower limb deficiency), finishing just a nick behind Norway’s Ida Nesse, who won a gold medal.

The UJ Sports for Students with Disabilities (SSD) Club Master’s student will on 24 February 2024 compete in Stellenbosch as well as in the national championships in Bloemfontein before going to the World Championships in Kobe, Japan, in May 2024. Follow UJ Sport on Facebook, X and Instagram for daily updates.

Ke 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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