South Africa, a state evolving to meet the future

Just over a week ago I had the privilege to participate in a seminar at the University of Johannesburg that coincided with a meeting of U21’s manager’s group. The seminar focused on how higher education in Southern Africa needs to evolve to meet the needs and challenges the continent is facing.

The seminar gave us insight into how African Universities have shaped society, but also the reverse, how society has influenced and still influences the Universities. The African continent is facing major challenges with a population that is expected to grow from today’s 1.2 to 4.8 billion in two generations. Universities have a crucial role, both in the training of future leaders and in contributing in the effort to solve the challenges that the societies are facing with such a sharp increase in population. The South African school system was mentioned, where there are large gaps in quality, and many students do not finish their secondary education. To conclude the seminar addressed the important changes that the educational systems have to go through in order to bring new groups to begin higher studies.

The University of Johannesburg (UJ) is an interesting and instructive example of how the new and modern education system in South Africa is emerging, and how to consciously work towards a positive development.

Meanwhile, discussions on tuition fees have resulted in student uprisings. You have probably followed the news with the hashtags #RhodesMustFall to #FeesMustFall to free HE. And now President Jacob Zuma has announced that tuition fees will not be increased for 2016.

South Africa is a fascinating country. At our visit it was, at least partially, draped in orange and purple. Orange since we were invited to visit the UJ’s “Orange Carpet Reception” where top students and their families were greeted by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ihron Rhensburg, at a reception at which they were given information about the opportunities to study at UJ. All Faculties with their Deans and Senior Managers were present and mingled with the students. Purple since the whole town was full of blooming purple jacarandas!

Thank you so much, University of Johannesburg, for your kind hospitality!

Eva

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