Vice-Chancellor of UCT visits Westerford High School
‘The role of UCT in a changing world’
After five years at Westerford High School, the result is generally a dynamic young adult with the tools to engage with the world in a meaningful way. But what is next for our matriculants?
Certainly, there are countless viable options and unique spaces for Westerfordians to excel and continue to learn after Grade 12. However, most pupils choose to pursue formal tertiary studies and there is no dispute that the University of Cape Town (UCT) is a post-school destination to which many Westerfordians aspire.
Westerfordians need not stray far for a quality university education; this is a message that UCT’s newly appointed Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Mamokgethi Phakeng, made very clear last Tuesday as she addressed parents, pupils and staff in the Noel Taylor Hall.
Taking charge of this historic institution as it emerged from a time of crisis, she has a clear view for the future of UCT. “Excellence requires transformation for integrity,” the VC affirmed throughout her talk, when dealing with her approach to the turbulence brought about by the #MustFall Movements in recent years, as well as the potential of universities as a tool for nation-building.
Prof. Phakeng underlined that the significance of universities in South Africa is greater than any measure of academic achievement. With the country’s painful history, and considering socio-economic disparities, one has to go beyond narrow subject focuses when studying today. The intelligence that comes from understanding broader issues around representation, food security, housing, funding and overall accessibility are perhaps as relevant to university students as quantum physics and legal frameworks, she said. The Vice-Chancellor sees efforts to contextualize academia (and activities in broader society) as essential for attaining higher standards of education in South Africa in future. She also stressed that after the ruptures of the past few years at UCT, her mission now was to build an inclusive and united institution which could ground and make sustainable this new transformative vision.
With her irreducible credentials, energy and distinctively accessible style, Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng spoke for an hour and a half to an entirely captivated audience. It was a privilege for the History and Current Affairs committee to host a leader who will surely be remembered for her authentic efficacy at South Africa’s leading university.
Written by Nadia Odendaal, Grade 12