VICE-CHANCELLOR Prof Derrick Swartz reflects on 2015 at the Staff year-end function and long service awards held on 1 December.
Summing up the year: Registration went smoothly, large numbers of students were inducted into our system, academic programmes ran well and ended in the successful culmination of an uninterrupted exam and assessment process and Graduation ceremonies scheduled for 10 and 11 December. All in all - extraordinarily successful year.
What has happened over the last month has been momentous with landmark shifts in the future of the university. Universities will never be the same again.
The events which erupted in mind-October were propagated by groups of students, sometimes joined by workers and gained support by some academics all over the country. The first issue to arise was the demand for a more equal higher education system - a very noble and laudable demand which I fully support which itself is a reflection for a demand for a more equal society economy and social system.
South African remains to be one of the most deeply divided and unequal societies in the world and for the first time in 21 years, students stood up in universities asking for a more equal dispensation, not just in higher education but in society as a whole. The demand is for poor students with academic abilities and natural talent not to be discriminated against and to be given an equal chance. Why should a poor student living in a township or in a rural community not have the same chances as others in a society that prides itself for the promotion of equality and social justice.
The country-wide protests resulted in down time at universities including NMMU and brought Council to make a series of momentous decisions.
DEBT AND FUNDING ISSUES
This took place under our watch but now that we know the truth, I’m taking responsibility and doing what is right. We want these outsiders to now become insiders and feel the warmth of NMMU.
We pay tribute to our workers for the role they have played in creating this beautiful university and this is a story that has not yet been told.
“Enough is a feast” said the late philosopher, Neville Alexander - if we only live a little bit less, we can all have a feast around the table.
THE WAY FORWARD
Because of the combination of the pressures on our cost structures, government subsidy declining and fees not growing, for the next 2-3 years we are going to have to do our business as we used to do it in the good times now in a much smarter way in the bad times so that we can hold the family together and all get enough of the feast. A little less than before, slower rates of growth but still be able to make ends meet.
NMMU will take care of its own but for that to happen we need to all work together and I appeal to you to put your shoulder to the wheel and work as a family in the finest tradition of our namesake, Nelson Mandela.
Thank you for all your work, for your generosity, spirit, humanity and professionalism. I can tell this university is well run. We have to keep up the good things and the discipline that has built this university. As we invite new members of staff in, we need to make sure that the business discipline continues in order to sustain this fantastic institution.
Tel: +27 (0) 41 504 1111
Fax: +27 (0) 41 504 2574 / 2731
PO Box 77000, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
Port Elizabeth, 6031, South Africa
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