University officially relaunches name in July

2017-07-05 06:02

JUST two days after the world will mark what would have been former President Nelson Mandela’s 99th birthday on July 18, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) will relaunch itself as Nelson Mandela University – the only higher education institution in the world to bear the name of one of the world’s most revered leaders.

The launch of Nelson Mandela University is another important milestone in the journey the university set when it adopted the institutional Vision 2020. This vision enjoined the institution’s leaders to work relentlessly towards building a new generation, dynamic African university, recognised for its leadership in producing cutting-edge knowledge for a sustainable future.

The hard work has resulted in the university being granted permission to establish the country’s 10th medical school and in helping it establish the country’s only dedicated Ocean Sciences campus.

These two important developments were followed by gazetting the institution’s new name by Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande last year.

The new name, Nelson Mandela University, will be officially used from the second semester of this year.

A celebratory event is planned for July 20 at the university’s Missionvale Campus.

The new name came at a time of forced introspection as a nation, particularly within the higher education sector, of the progress made in the two decades of South Africa’s democracy towards the realisation of a non-racial and just society.

“The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation … We need a system … that is geared to the realities of our country and the ideals of our people,” President Mandela said at the Education Africa Presidential and Premier Education Awards ceremony in 1997.

Therefore, this call to action underscores the university’s long-held desire to honour Mandela’s legacy of advancing education as “the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Outgoing NMMU vice-chancellor Prof Derrick Swartz said, “We are hugely honoured and privileged to bear the name of one of the world’s greatest icons – a man whose humble beginnings, values and hopes resonate with our own hopes for a transformed and better future for all. It was the former statesman himself who highlighted the key role of universities as ‘agents central to renewal’.”

Requests to change the institution’s name to Nelson Mandela University were initially made before the merger of the University of Port Elizabeth (UPE), Port Elizabeth Technikon (PE Tech) and the city’s Vista University campus to form NMMU in 2005. The request was not granted earlier for various reasons.

The university said in a media statement, that plans to launch the new name officially in October last year were delayed by the #FeesMustFall student protests, which highlighted students’ struggles in financing their higher education and, among other things, the need to transform the curriculum.

This obstacle, however, presented an opportunity to launch the new name at a time when there is tangible progress in addressing the concerns raised by the #FeesMustFall movement which had long been on the institution’s radar.

The launch of Nelson Mandela University will not only be a celebration of the efforts to be named after this great leader, but of the university’s commitment to transformation and truly living out its values, which include Ubuntu, integrity and respect for diversity.

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