The year 2018 is an important one as South Africa, and the world, celebrate 100 years of one of the 20th century’s most revered leaders, Nelson Mandela. The Mandela Centenary Year, as it has come to be known, will see heightened efforts to mark the life, times and legacy of a man who has dedicated the bulk of his life in service to the people, particularly the vulnerable and marginalised.
Annually, Mandela’s birthday on 18 July is marked by people taking part in various acts of kindness under the “67 minutes” banner, effectively emulating the peaceful and charitable spirit of the man who gave 67 years to the liberation and emancipation of the country’s majority people, as well as rebuilding the country.
Nelson Mandela University, the only university in the world to bear the name of the global icon, will mark this milestone with a yearlong Centenary Celebration Programme, which officially launches on 18 July. The University’s approach to the centenary is rooted in the academic project, effectively zooming in on the scholarship of Mandela in line with the importance he placed on education as the most powerful transformative weapon.
The Centenary Year also marks the first anniversary of the Nelson Mandela University name, following its official launch on 20 July 2017. When the University chose the name, it was for what it means for the transformation of education and how higher education contributes to the development of society.
Last year saw a focus on introducing and building the new brand and identity by changing some of the physical and visual brand collateral such as signage and marketing material.
This year will see the University earnestly delving into the process of deepening, embedding and enhancing the meaning of its new name and identity in its core teaching, learning, research and engagement mandate and ethos.
Mandela University Vice-Chancellor Prof Sibongile Muthwa says the University’s rooting of the centenary programme on the academic project resonates with Mandela’s famous declaration that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’.
“This insightful declaration reflected Mandela’s profound belief arising from his personal and communal experiences,” she says.
Mandela University’s Centenary Celebration Programme will see a series of institution-wide events and activities planned and championed by its seven faculties, along with other University entities that essentially speak to the various aspects of Mandela’s scholarly legacy.
These will predominantly take on the form of conferences and colloquia, public lectures and talks as well as book launches that essentially enable a space in which conversations that contribute to the enhancement of Mandela’s legacy can take place. This will go a long way in achieving the objectives towards the institutional vision of becoming a ‘dynamic African university, recognised for its leadership in generating cutting-edge knowledge for a sustainable future’.
Nelson Mandela was known for his philanthropic ways and deep passion for education and children, a legacy that the University is carrying out through its partnerships with various – mainly under resourced – communities and schools throughout the province.
As an institution of higher learning resolute in creating opportunities not only for access to higher education, but also success, Mandela University is focused on fostering a culture of excellence in learning from the development stage right through to university level.
The official Centenary Programme will kick off with a two-day colloquium by the Faculty of Education that seeks to interrogate the famous Mandela quote that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world’; with the sub-topic ‘Understanding the contextual relevance of Mandela’s statement to meet the 21st century realities of growing inequalities and hegemonies of knowledge, within the drive for a decolonised education system’.
This will be followed by the Law Faculty Rights Conference, which celebrates the South African constitution and Mandela’s leadership and contribution to its making, the Arts Faculty conference on Being Human(e) in the 21st Century, and a colloquium on Scholarship on the Mandela hosted by the Chair on Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation.
Notable public lectures lined up include one by Advocate Thuli Madonsela, in collaboration with the Moral Regeneration Movement and the Centre for the Advancement of Non-Racialism and Democracy. This will be followed by former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke’s talk on Rethinking Private Law and Social Justice post-Mandela, and a public lecture by the South African Reserve Bank Governor, Mr Lesetja Kganyago, on the role of the Central Bank in building democracy.
Faculty activities include highlighting the work of the Science Faculty towards improving science and maths education in the Eastern Cape and the Health Sciences Faculty’s consolidation and finalisation of the launch of the country’s 10th Medical School, which has a specific objective of enhancing the provision of health services to underserved areas.
On the student front, the University will, for the first time, host a National Student Leadership conference that will deliberate on the role and contribution of student activism to reshaping and enhancing higher education.
All of these, and other initiatives, are intended to make a vast contribution to the revitalisation of education and the development of the Eastern Cape.
The University looks forward to sharing the Centenary Celebration Programme not only in honour of Madiba, but also to contributing to the national discourse and the legacy of development.