When, in July, Njabulo Maphumulo started his position as the new coordinator of the six Tygerberg Campus Cluster residences, he was welcomed with open arms by all the residence heads.
"They are excited to have somebody to facilitate the committee. The different residences are presently doing their own thing and are keen to form a sense of community," Njabulo said.
Since taking up the post, he has spent time getting to know his new environment and listening to the ideas and challenges of the people he'll be working with.
Njabulo will have his work cut out for him. Besides managing the day-to-day administration of the six residences, he will liaise with residence staff and facilitate student support and disciplinary processes. He will also confront the major issues which affect students, including student safety, mental health, food security and many others. Key to all of this will be a strong engagement with student leaders.
"For me, it's all about team work and shared responsibilities. We all need to work together."
On top of all the responsibilities of the job, Njabulo, – a "lifelong student" – will be studying for his Master's degree in Public Administration through UWC's School of Government.
Raised in Durban, Njabulo moved to UWC in 2008. He completed his Honours in Bachelor of Public Administration in 2017 and intends completing his Masters in 2020. He also has various certificates in entrepreneurship, democracy and citizenship.
He started honing his skills in campus support in 2010 when he was appointed Administrative Student Assistant: Student Development and Support in UWC's Residential and Catering services.
In 2011, he became Administrative Officer in the Office for Residence Life at UWC, which involved assisting in admin and other aspects of residence life. In 2014, he worked as Acting Coordinator for Student Leadership at UWC, which involved working with student leadership structures on several programmes, including election processes.
In 2019, he became Coordinator for Student Leadership Support. In 2016, he was appointed as Short Course Facilitator: Democracy and Active Citizenship at the Frederick van Zyl Slabbert Institute for Student Leadership, which involved facilitating a range of classes on democracy, citizenship and accountability for students.
In his new role, besides managing the residence heads and staff in the cluster in close cooperation with student leadership, he is also tasked with financial management, disciplinary issues in the residences and crisis management.
The role of the res heads is to manage student support and development as a means to promote diversity, unity and transformation in the specific residences.
The Tygerberg ResHeads Team are:
- Meggan Ceylon – Visiting Head for Ubuntu House
- Angelo McKerry – Visiting Head for PSO
- Dr Derick Van Vurren – Head for Kerkenberg House
- Dr Alwyn Louw – Head for Nkosi Johnson House
- Louis Fincham – Head of Meerhorff House
- Simthembile Xeketwana – Head of Francie van Zijl House
A key part of the job is to come up with a programme of culture change in the residences – with the aim of developing a healthy, united community. This includes integrating the PSO students into the cluster and enhancing their university experience. He will also build relationships between the learning faculties and the living clusters and with people and institutions outside the university environment.
He is also tasked with building an academic learning culture in residence cluster as well as training students in leadership and identifying student leaders.
"It will be a full-time job, right inside the residence space but also being closely involved with student integration and development."
Njabulo will meet regularly with student leaders and residence heads and staff to discuss what's working and what's not working in the residence space.
A priority is to create a platform – and workshops – for students to have conversations on different issues, such as diversity and gender-based violence.
Njabulo said recent meetings he's had with stakeholders on campus have highlighted the gaps and needs.
“One of the biggest issues facing residences is transformation. This university is over 100 years old and has kept up some traditions which may no longer be relevant.
"Mental health is another one of the big issues to which we've not paid enough attention. Our Centre for Student Counselling and Development is always fully booked. Students deal with a lot – academics, social and family issues as well as peer pressure. We must support them.
"Another issue is food security. Just because someone has a bursary doesn't mean they have enough money for food. We have programmes – such as the Pantry Project – but we need to enhance them."
On security in the residences: “It is a shared responsibility amongst students themselves, their leaders and relevant staff members. If we commit to have a safer and conducive environment, everyone will have to play their role. As the Cluster Head, I have already started conversations with students about promoting a safe campus and what their role will be. At this stage safety is a priority for residences and action plans are being put in place."
Njabulo believes he brings a number of strengths to the task: "I wake up excited to assist students with their development. This job is an investment in society. I often think 'this student of today will be a doctor tomorrow'. Our society needs doctors and nurses. It feels good to be contributing to this.
Njabulo's interests include hiking and running and he also loves the adrenaline of extreme sports.
He also enjoys reading, particularly books relating to current affairs.
Caption: Njabulo Maphumulo is the Residence Head Coordinator at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University.
Photo credit: Wilma Stassen