‘Cream of crop’ exitsUKZN

2012-07-31 00:00

SENIOR, experienced academics are leaving the University of KwaZulu-Natal because of the bad manner in which transformation is being handled by the university’s leadership, said Professor Albert Modi, dean of UKZN’s School of Agriculture.

Modi was speaking at the farewell of Professor Jeffrey Hughes (62), head of soil science at the school, which was held at the institution yesterday.

“We have lost a pedologist [a scientist who studies soil properties and classifies soil types] who cannot be replaced immediately, and this is because of the inability to handle transformation.

“We have two parties who refuse to accept responsibility. We have the old staff comprising mainly of white people. There is the staff which came after the merger to form UKZN. In my view, the two parties refuse to accept responsibility [for mismanaging transformation].”

Modi, who was appointed to his position in November, said both parties misunderstood the meaning of transformation.

“The leadership of the university is saying that transformation will be implemented whether the old group likes it or not, while the latter feels that transformation is meant to make black staff superior to whites, which is not the case,” he said.

Modi said white South Africans feared that academic excellence would be diluted when the then University of Natal was merged with other tertiary institutions.

“The responsibility of leadership is not to say to people to go to hell if they don’t support transformation. Parties need to acknowledge the excellence of others and give credit where it’s due,” said Modi.

He said there was a need for the UKZN administration to rebuild the institution’s image, and the agriculture faculty in particular.

From its inception, the faculty’s teaching and research had been at very high national and international standards to attract students and academics.

Modi said he was developing a transformation charter to assist in changing the institution.

“Unfortunately the cream of the crop is leaving. It’s sad because Professor Hughes still had three to eight more years to offer his services to the institution, yet he chose to go. We are losing a great scholar at a time when we need to boost our excellence,” said Modi.

Hughes joined the University of Natal in his early thirties as a lecturer and became the head of soil science after 20 years of service to the institution.

Explaining why he chose to resign early, he cited the administrative style of the university as one of the reasons.

“I didn’t expect this [lecturing] to be political. I find that I can’t trust the people in high authority at UKZN. Once trust goes out of the window, nothing can go right. The attitude of senior staff at the university, the ethos, has led to my retirement,” he said.

A spokesperson in the Ministry of Higher Education and Training, Vuyelwa Qinga, said the ministry was aware of transformation issues at UKZN.

“The department met the university council recently and the issue was discussed. The council is to investigate and report back to the department,” said Qinga.

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