ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF HIGHER EDUCATION, SCIENCE AND INNOVATION, DR BLADE NZIMANDE, ON THE OCCASION OF THE INAUGURATION OF CHANCELLOR OF MUT, MR SANDILE ZUNGU
17 March 2023
The Chancellor, Mr Sandile Donald Muziwenkosi Zungu;
The Administrator, Prof Lourens Van Staden;
Acting Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof Marcus Ramogale;
Deputy Vice-Chancellors and other members of the Executive Management present;
Officials from the Department of Higher Education and Training and my Ministry ;
The leadership of the students;
Members of the media,
Ladies and gentlemen
First and foremost, allow me to thank the Administrator of the University for inviting me to this special occasion of the installation and inauguration of Mr Sandile Zungu as Chancellor of the Mangosuthu University of Technology.
I am deeply honoured to be a part of this special occasion and share this special historical moment with you, your family, the entire MUT community and South Africa at large.
Ladies and gentlemen
Mr Zungu’s association with Umlazi is a personal one, he was born here in the fourth largest township after Soweto, Tembisa and Katlehong. We are proud about his accomplishments and significant networks within the business community, locally and nationally.
I would like to take this opportunity to extend my warmest congratulations to Mr Zungu on his appointment as the Chancellor of this University.
I believe your appointment as a Chancellor of MUT presents enormous opportunities for this University to tap into your networks for funds to contribute toward a sterling future that must be felt and experienced by people of Umlazi.
Having appointed Mr Zungu, the University must seek to leverage his networks and associates to improve the profile of MUT, including linking MUT with industry in order to facilitate Work Based Learning for all learners of this university.
Both my Departments of Higher Education and Training and Science and Innovation and I, wish you the greatest of success in your appointment and we are looking forward to your contribution in the rebuilding of this University.
Role of a Chancellor
Ladies and gentlemen
The role of the Chancellor is to preside over all congregations and in particular confer all degrees and award all diplomas and certificates at graduation.
Though the office has no executive powers, given the context of our higher education system, the Chancellor, provides leadership to the University without being its manager or governor.
You are an ambassador advocating to raise its profile, and advancing its interests nationally, regionally and internationally. As the University’s titular head, you have an important ambassadorial role for the University, working with the Vice-Chancellor and the Council Chairperson, in this case the Administrator, to represent the University in the external community.
As MUT Chancellor you may be expected to act as mediator and unifying symbol during times of disputes. This is important because governance and management at MUT has been a matter of contention for many years, resulting in instability in the office of the Vice-Chancellor.
The University has been a subject of ministerial interventions more than any of the other institutions since its establishment as a university, with three (3) independent assessments have taken place, and two administrator appointments.
A common theme emerging from the various Independent Assessor report is that of an institution whose institutional identity and ethos are counter to the notion of what a university should be.
I trust you will support MUT leadership and management in the supreme task of reversing that history and join in the effort to rebrand this institution amongst the best that South Africa can offer.
This university enrols over 13 000 students annually. We therefore must not underestimate the significant of the role that this university plays in this community and our country at large.
We know that education provides the means for many in our communities to escape poverty.
As our former State President Nelson Mandela puts it: “Education is a great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of a mine, that the child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation.”
Therefore, without any fail, there is therefore an expectation for this University to provide high quality student experience and outcomes because no country can develop unless its citizens are educated.
The 2021 Independent Assessor Report recommended that a concerted effort should be made to transform the culture of this University. We must thus rebuild the image of this institution and strive to be impactful if we seek to ensure that MUT remains relevant to the future.
MUT must define its inherent advantages, the opportunities it can explore and the needs it can serve, the areas it can lead over the next decade and beyond.
With its own advantages, this university must not seek to be like any other that we have in our country, but it must craft its own trajectory and its own unique identity.
I trust that under the leadership of the Administrator, Professor Van Staden, working together with the Management of this University and the new Chancellor, we will begin to see the tide turns; and the University becoming more impactful particularly in the area of Umlazi.
The role of Universities of Technology
Ladies and gentlemen,
The changing nature of work—which favours more flexible and shorter- term assignments— has been widely cited as a key challenge for our future education system.
Therefore, our Universities of Technology (UoT’s) such as MUT have a critical role to play in promoting the knowledge and skills required to facilitate the critical transitions which South Africa has to inevitably embrace. I must also indicate that MUT is among the 7 of the 26 universities which is assigned this critical role and must not deviate from it.
To ensure that we close this gap in the provision of these critical skills, UoT’s were therefore established to provide essential professional, technological and applied programmes to enable us to bridge the gap between the world of learning and the world of work. It therefore becomes important that UoT’s must not stray from their critical mission.
We cannot have our UoT’s embark on ‘mission drift’ away from their core mission and wanting to become traditional, academic universities. This would be fatal to our vision of a differentiated higher education and training system, as envisaged in the White Paper on PSET of 2017.
Work-integrated learning, learnerships and similar strategies enabling our students to integrate theoretical training and practical, industry-knowledge and experience, is absolutely important to retain and indeed expand. This is particularly important in the context of the challenges facing South Africa.
We therefore need a post school education and training system that is skills centred, innovation led and entrepreneurship driven.
It is for these reasons also that our UoTs must also aim to become anchor institutions in the development of the localities in which they are embedded.
Innovation and skills development are crucial to provide the catalysts for uptake of new job opportunities, to create new products and services, and to grow critical sectors of our economy.
I would like to see our PSET institutions working much more collaboratively than in previous times, specifically to construct partnerships between Universities, TVET Colleges, industry and local communities around key economic sectors.
In this regard, I see the District Development Model (DDM) as an ideal geographical set of spaces around which to construct workable partnerships between these institutions collaborating together in solving development challenges at a local level – for example, water management, food production, renewable energy for low-cost housing, and so forth.
PSET Response to current protest
I also would like to take this opportunity to reflect on some pertinent issues affecting our post school education and training sector, particularly in relation to our sector’s response on current protests taking place in some of our institutions.
I would like to thank all our stakeholders, particularly our Vice Chancellors, organised through Universities South Africa (Usaf) and the South Africa Union of Students (SAUS) and our Trade Unions who heeded to our call for further engagement at an institutional level to deal with challenges that were raised by students and some labour unions at various institutions in our country.
This led to the end of most of the protests taking place in some of our universities and TVET colleges in the past two weeks.
As I have said in my public statement the best place to develop localised mitigation strategies to deal with students and worker challenges is at the institutional level.
I therefore would like to restate that using internal mechanisms, through forums such as the Institutional Forums, would be the most appropriate platforms for all institutional stakeholders to resolved any challenges that might arise.
I however remained concern about the violent nature of some of the protests, which in part manifested isolated acts of intimidation of students, staff and members of the public and the destruction of public and private property.
On submission of enrolment data and NSFAS funding
I also want to further urge all our institutions who have not submitted their enrolment data to NSFAS to do so urgently and accurately, in order to enable NSFAS to promptly process the student allowances in instances where such allowances have not been proceeded due to incomplete data.
As a Department we are also assisting NSFAS with additional funding to ensure that its IT systems capabilities expand in direct proportion of the number of students NSFAS supports. We therefore have set aside R54 million for NSFAS system support.
Let me also indicate that for MUT in 2022 alone, NSFAS accommodation supported about 9343 student, noting that just over 14 000 students were registered at MUT in 2022. Around 66% or two- thirds of students supported at this institution are NSFAS bursary recipients.
As I have indicated publicly, to date 1,084 574 students have been funded by NSFAS in 2023.
Of the total number of first-time entering students provisionally funded 532,602 are SASSA beneficiaries – this accounts for 80% of First Time Entering Student who applied and are funded by NSFAS. 443 617 Student have opted to study at universities as compared to 211,235 students that have chosen TVET college as their preferred institution to study.
Again, NSFAS has improved its systems to enable it to make real time funding decisions. At this stage NSFAS is able to make real-time funding decisions for SASSA beneficiaries, while it continues to engage with SARS to enable the same for all its other applicants.
Programme director, I felt that it is important that I highlight these important developments that are taking place in our sector before I conclude on remarks today.
Thank you for very much for the opportunity to be here today and I wish MUT success under its current leadership.