Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University (SU) emphasised the value of open conversation in his address to Convocation members at the annual Convocation meeting on Thursday, where Convocation President, Advocate Jan Heunis and Secretary, Bernard Pieters, were elected unopposed for a second term.
"For Stellenbosch University, engaging with our multiple stakeholders in a meaningful way is an important goal. And Convocation is a key constituency for us, consisting of all Stellenbosch graduates and full-time academic staff members. So, we welcome this opportunity," Prof De Villiers said.
In his report to Convocation, Prof De Villiers said the University continues to promote academic excellence and diversity, while broadening access with success and shared the many highlights that the University accomplished over the past year. Among these successes is a record number of qualifications awarded in the past academic year. This included 1 620 master’s degrees and 305 PhDs. According to De Villiers, SU produces about 10% of the country's doctorates.
He also said that SU continues to receive recognition on the global stage and that the institution is among the top 1% of universities worldwide. "We have moved up in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings in position 301 to 350 - a jump of 50 places. And since 2015, SU has featured in the rankings of five international higher education rating agencies."
‘Kom pad toe’
In his speech titled ‘Kom pad toe’, Jeremy Vearey, Major General in the South African Police Service (SAPS) and keynote speaker at the event, added his voice to the ongoing SU Language debate, while also emphasising the spirit of open conversation. Vearey, who wrote the book "Jeremy vannie Elsies", is the Western Cape deputy commissioner of crime detection as well as the head of the anti-gang unit of the SAPS.
Whose variety of Afrikaans should be protected? he asked. "With all its bokkem and biltonG varieties, Afrikaans really exists in the spheres of our rural and backstreet children. Whatever his language or language variety, it is there where his mother tongue must work as a language of instruction in school. Against his parents' misconceptions about the English language's superiority. And especially against our middle class superiority about so-called standard Afrikaans," Vearey said.
He also challenged the audience to move out of their own immediate environments, to find that middle ground to address a problem. "As we say on the Flats when we challenge you - 'kom pad toe'. What my mom and aunts in Elsies River and Tiervlei meant by that was an invitation to move out of your own yard or camp to the middle ground to solve a problem. Not hide inside your camp.
"Put differently in this context, come out of you parochial Stellenbosch University yard and join the bigger path. It is time to mobilise where it matters, among the working class in towns and the rural areas, with all their languages and varieties. We dare not give in to language erosion. 'Kom pad toe'"
Photo: Advocate Jan Heunis, Major General Jeremy Vearey and Prof Wim de Villiers at Thursday's Convocation Meeting. (Photographer: Henk Oets)