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UKZN puts transformation under the microscope

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) hosted an instalment of its dialogue series, this one titled: "Unpacking UKZN's Perspectives of Transformation in the 25th Year of Democracy: Where Are We Now and Where Are We Going?" The debate was hosted on the university's Westville campus in the run-up to Human Rights Day (21 March).

The deputy vice-chancellor of the College of Health Sciences, Professor Busi Ncama, said transformation aimed to "eradicate the legacy of apartheid" and reminded the audience that the lack of access to tertiary education for rural students was of particular importance for universities in SA.

The deputy vice-chancellor of teaching and learning, Professor Sandile Songca, examined the Curriculum Perspective during the robust debate, saying a key mandate of universities was to ensure that talented students became "impactful members of society". Songca emphasised the need to produce job creators rather than job seekers, and advocated life-long learning.

Representing the labour perspective was Raymond Parkies, the chairperson of the university's staff union, UKSU. He said the culture of UKZN needed to be "fostered as per the Transformation Charter". Parkies said transformation would be achieved "if we all work together".

Law lecturer Lindiwe Maqutu cautioned against an ideology that "propagates white supremacy". She emphasised the importance of remembering that modern SA was founded on racism and suggested that historical context was taken into consideration when examining transformation.

Lukhona Mnguni, a PhD intern at UKZN's Maurice Webb Race Relations Unit and a well-known social and political analyst, critiqued transformation charters, which he said were often generic and "don't even do the bare minimum that they promise".

UKZN academic Dr Lubna Nadvi examined the political and gender perspective, reflecting on roles that the founding universities of UKZN, namely, the University of Natal and the University of Durban-Westville, had played in the emancipation of the country.

Nadvi asked: "Where are the Steve Bikos and the Rick Turners of today; do they even exist?"

She also discussed toxic masculinity and said the university needed to create a platform for staff and students to engage on matters relating to gender-based violence.

The co-ordinator at UKZN's Aerotropolis Institute Africa, Dr Rudi Kimmie, explored transformation and the economic perspective, saying: "Transformation doesn't live in a democracy, transformation lives inside of you."

He encouraged those present to pursue excellence and to fully use the 86 400 seconds we are all given every day.

The dialogue was hosted by UKZN's corporate relations division as part of the university's efforts in advancing transformation and the REACHT principles. These principles incorporate six guiding values that empower the institution and its people to achieve the university's goals. The guiding values are respect, excellence, accountability, client orientation, honesty and trust.

Words: Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer

Photograph: Albert Hirasen