The Siyakhula Diversity Development programme of Stellenbosch University (SU), now called the Siyakhula Live Series, will continue in the second semester with virtual webinar training sessions every Friday.
Siyakhula, which means “we grow", is a diversity capacity development programme that aims to equip staff to model, guide and support equity strategies, inclusion and staff wellbeing.
Mr Sello Molapo, Director: Employment Equity (EE), says the Siyakhula programme is a flagship programme jointly held between the EE Directorate in the Human Resources Division and the Transformation Office. This programme is central to SU's strategic theme to be an Employer of Choice.
“Last year, more than 450 staff members participated in 31 sessions of the programme. Due to the pandemic, the envisaged programme for 2020 could not be rolled out. But the programme needs to continue and the next steps are to broaden the programme to include the training of more staff facilitators and improving access to centralised sessions," he says.
Ms Katlego Letlonkane, Programme Manager: Diversity Capacity Development who reports to both the Director: EE and the Head: Transformation Office, says measures are running smoothly to start Siyakhula Live at the end of July, and that staff members will soon receive invitations to the Friday webinar training sessions. Ms Letlonkane reports
The webinars will cover topics like institutional culture, religious and cultural inclusion, gender relations, difference and diversity, ability, decolonisation, mediation and conflict resolution, transformational leadership and value-based decision-making and empathy.
The Siyakhula Live's facilitators are multi- and inter-disciplinary researchers and practitioners within SU. External experts who engage with humanities issues daily as well as staff from the Disability Unit, Transformation Office and from the SU Historical Trauma and Transformation Studies Department have also been lined up to facilitate sessions.
“We hope our staff will feel personally motivated to attend as many training sessions as possible. We hope to provide a moving, engaging and empowering experience," says Letlonkane.
Letlonkane encourages staff to approach this training with 'open hearts'. She has personal experience of engaging in a transformative process. “Studying and being engaged in critical diversity studies have given me perspective on the world I live in, the societies and social systems of our world, people, relations and culture. It has empowered me to be a better human being," she says.
According to Letlonkane, it is important that people have their perspectives. She explains that humanity rests on people's relations with others. “I'd like to think that a central aim of Siyakhula is to share perspectives about our diverse and, in many ways, complex humanity. The more perspectives out there, the easier it is to build and sustain relations and grow empathy for another person's position," she says.
At training sessions, the staff is encouraged to be open-hearted and embrace the opportunity to reflect and plant the seeds of change in their own lives.
However, the process of change is not instant. Letlonkane hopes to make impactful strides over the next four years in promoting diversity and inclusion. “I come with an open heart and willingness to let the process of building diversity capacity reveals what needs to be done. It encourages me to experience the determination of the University to enhance meaningful systemic transformation," she says.
Letlonkane highlights that to reach the goal, all members of our university community need to get on board and embrace the opportunity to learn new and better ways of living. “We will know we are moving in the right direction when more and more of us start engaging and making decisions based on the values and ethics of Ubuntu (humanity towards others)."