Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the Official Launch of University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus
04 February 2011
Chancellor; Ms Wendy Luhabe
Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Johannesburg, Professor Ihron Rensburg;
Chairman of the Council, Prof Roy Marcus;
Minister of Science & Technology, Ms Naledi Pandor
Members of the Council;
Academic Staff Members;
Parents and Students;
Ladies and gentlemen:
I am honoured to share my humble thoughts with you on this red letter day: the official opening of the redeveloped Soweto Campus of the University of Johannesburg.
Today is a red letter day because it is a day heralding increased efforts to tackle challenges of under-development in our uneven socio-economic landscape.
This state of affairs is a far cry from the dubious intentions of the previous order that prompted the establishment of Vista University in the first place.
The Apartheid order had sought to produce second rate academic institutions in keeping with the designated social position of black South Africans.
Indeed, this institution has come a long way since its humble origins as Vista University, established in the context of the so-called separate development.
Today, in the place of the old backwaters called Vista University, we are here to celebrate the redeveloped Soweto campus of the University of Johannesburg.
It is a sign of the times, and, for that matter, a positive sign indicative of the determination of South Africans to break new ground in all key respects of our existence.
Equipped with modern educational facilities, this campus will, I am sure, have a positive impact on the Soweto community and Gauteng province at large.
I also believe it will attract students and academics from all over South Africa and indeed the world.
Education is a launching pad with proven efficacy to address socio-economic challenges besieging nations and lifting societies onto an orbit of development.
On this account, building a university or expanding an existing one is a clear indication of our intentions as government, tertiary institutions and all other stakeholders to invest in our future.
Similarly, I am confident that the expansion of this campus will play a key role in addressing developmental needs of the broader Soweto community.
Since its re-emergence in 2005 following the merger of tertiary institutions, this campus has proven to be a thriving and dynamic entity willing to discharge its heavy responsibilities with excellence.
At a time when all of us are seized with the pivotal task of bringing about economic growth, reconstruction and development in our country, investment in education assumes immeasurable importance.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am informed that the Soweto campus will have its own distinctive academic offerings.
Specifically, the Soweto campus will be the hub for management sciences and education.
Once again I am fully confident in the choice made by the University of Johannesburg.
Soweto campus will not only be an educational landmark and academic centre in a much broader sense, but also, because of its suite of diploma programmes, it will constitute an important part of serving the higher education needs of the area, both of Soweto and of the commercial and industrial heartland that is Gauteng.
Traditionally the functions of universities are teaching and researching.
In their teaching, universities provide professional training for high-level jobs, as well as the education necessary for the development of the personality.
University research increases the body of theoretical knowledge as well as its application to practical problems humanity faces.
There is a mutually enriching intersection between a university and society it serves.
The notion of a university as a proverbial ivory tower detached from the masses is no longer tenable.
Today's main issue is to open up universities to the masses of young people and to adjust to today's democratic, pluralistic society, and at the same time maintain the standard of teaching and level of research.
Universities thrive in social milieus which are supportive and interactive at different levels.
In the case of Soweto, the one evident benefit of this approach is that it helps ensure that key sites of struggle in Soweto do not become marginal but central in the cultural, social and economic life of South Africa.
At a psychological level, some high-level developments along with the redeveloped Campus will be a great source of civic pride to the community.
It will not only place responsibility on the community to ‘own’ this Campus, but, importantly, it will inspire the learners in the nearby communities to work hard so that one day they may also be proud students in this university.
The University of Johannesburg is a strategic asset, which can become a site offering a wide range of higher education programmes.
Government shares this viewpoint, as shown by the efforts of the Department of Higher Education.
It is thus commendable that the University of Johannesburg and the Department of Higher Education have identified the need for considerable investment in infrastructure to restore confidence and academic stature of this campus.
This step, once again, confirms government intention to work with all South Africans to further advance reconstruction, development and prosperity for all our people.
Ladies and gentlemen
The historical context I have referred to earlier on is an all-pervasive subject that surfaces in many settings.
Name changing, or naming places or institutions is thus a delicate but indispensable matter whose relevance I have learnt was not lost in the expanding of this Soweto campus.
This process ordinarily entails broad participation by stakeholders and is invariably informed by the desire to advance the course of national unity and social cohesion.
Accordingly, after the completion of the development, the university embarked on the re-naming process for all buildings and spaces.
I commend the University of Johannesburg for this foresight, for as they say the past we inherit, the future we create.
We could not be working for this integration of society and social coherence to underpin our national growth and development had it not been for efforts, sacrifices and the vision of some of these people who are today to be honoured by this great university.
Let me wish the University of Johannesburg all the best in their endeavour to search for knowledge in order to help better the human condition.
I thank you
Issued by: The Presidency