Author: Charl Linde
The Stellenbosch University (SU) Transformation Office has recently been strengthening regional partnerships with the University of the Western Cape, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and the University of Cape Town (UCT).
This renewed focus on inter-institutional collaboration in the Western Cape province has led to the establishment of the Inclusive Practice Speaker Series, a collaboration with the UCT Office of Inclusivity and Change, the CPUT Directorate for Transformation and the SU Transformation Office. The series creates a platform for academics, practitioners, NGOs and government to engage on transformation praxis.
UCT hosted the first public seminar in the series early in February, inviting Prof Rozena Maart from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, who delivered a presentation titled “Reason and unreason: Pedagogies of the oppressed in the twenty-first century: Gender, philosophy, education and the law". Prof Maart interrogated notions of inclusivity and transformation at our universities, noting that “[i]t seems, by and large, that [at] most previously white universities, inclusivity [means] 'How are we going to make the black students and the black staff feel comfortable […] in this space where white folks continue to dominate?'" But what is transformation – or what should it be? Prof Maart believes that “[t]ransformation has often meant 'How do we transform black students and black staff to be at the same level of speech, elocution, language [and] scholarship as white staff and white students?'" She continued to say that all South Africans have to do introspection: “Part of what we need to confront is […] our participation in homophobia and sexism and forms of patriarchal practice […] on all aspects of our identity where we believe we are safe […]. Because, if we see ourselves as an exception, that 'I don't have any practices that are offensive, let alone oppressive', then what are you saying? That you have no place to grow?"
The next Inclusive Practice Speaker Series seminar will be hosted at SU. Speaking on the upcoming event, Acting Head: Transformation, Dr Claire Kelly, says that she is excited about having the opportunity to welcome Ilze Olckers at Maties to deliver the presentation. Ilze practised as a human rights lawyer during the apartheid era and the transition to democracy, during which she also participated in the constitutional and other legislative drafting processes. She has furthermore participated in policy and systems development of gender and race machinery in a post-apartheid South Africa.
Further afield, SU's Transformation Office has continued to play its part in national conversations and dialogues on transformation in higher education, sending delegations to partake in the national Transformation Manager's Forum (TMF). The TMF is a space for all transformation functions in higher education to connect and create opportunities for collaboration. It is also where conversations about national strategic priorities are conducted and where the sector engages with the Department of Higher Education and Training. Such collaborations include the creation of a reporting system that can track progress in transformation and a mechanism that can hold institutions to account. The TMF also functions as a 'learning community' where various representatives share challenges and practices. Student experience is a dominant theme in these discussions.
Are there any other developments in the works in terms of transformation partnerships? Dr Kelly answers: “There is ongoing collaboration with Prof André Keet, the National Research Foundation Chair for Critical Studies in Higher Education Transformation based at Nelson Mandela University, but I can't say any more at the moment. Watch this space!"