100 World Class South Africans: Jonathan Jansen

2013-06-19 12:00

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Education and integration genius

Increasingly a touchstone for what is right and good in our country, Professor Jonathan Jansen advocates education as the key to many social problems, for economic sustainability, social upliftment, racial integration.

Not a new concept, but it is his challenging of accepted ‘truths’ and sifting facts from fiction that makes a difference.

A former biology teacher, Jansen is one of the world’s top education researchers, having been involved in more than 20 commissioned global projects and editing numerous international journals.

Known for his insightful and forthright comments on a variety of issues, a gifted orator and leader, Jansen is best known for his reconciliatory approach to social divisions.

His experience as the first black dean of the University of Pretoria informed his hard-hitting book Knowledge in the Blood, about how prejudice and ignorance are passed down through generations, trapping people in stereotypes.

When Jansen was appointed rector at the University of the Free State in 2009, he was faced with the infamous ‘Reitz Four’ video – and a student community deeply polarised along racial lines.

Through simple listening, and armed with moral courage, Jansen has turned around a former bastion of Afrikaner learning into a model of genuine integration. For South Africans, his message is simple: the only way to smother radicalism is to embrace it.

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