V-C’s tough task ahead

2015-03-09 00:00

THE newly inducted vice-chancellor of the University of KwaZulu-Natal has been warned to “belt up” (for a rough ride) by Wits University head Adam Habib.

Habib was one of several speakers, including Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor, to offer stern advice on Dr Albert van Jaarsveld’s appointment.

Van Jaarsveld was officially sworn in on Saturday at a glittering ceremony to a crowd of several hundred hosted at the Durban-Westville campus auditorium.

“Belt up for you are in for one hell of a ride,” said Habib.

Habib, who studied at the same campus, then known as the University of Durban-Westville opened for Indians in 1972, said he “cut his teeth” at the university and when he walked into the hall as part of the ceremony he, he had “this compulsion to toyi-toyi”.

“If the tokoloshe calls, call on your other vice-chancellors [from various universities] as it is only the collective spirit that banishes it,” Habib said to delighted laughter and applause.

Pandor said Van Jaarsveld may be the “first zoologist to take up a vice-chancellor position in RSA”.

Van Jaarsveld was previously at the ­National Research Foundation, which falls under Pandor’s ministry.

She said she tried to dissuade him from taking up the post as she didn’t want to lose him, dropping hints such as “student strikes”, politics and funding issues to try and change his mind.

“At least at the NRF there were no students,” said Pandor lightly.

She said Van Jaarsveld is a quiet person, but there is “steel underneath that exterior”. “In South Africa There have been 87 vice-chancellors since 1994, which comes to an average ­turnover of 3,4 months. We need to change this,” said Pandor. looking at Van Jaarsveld.

In a touching moment while Van ­Jaarsveld was being handed his robes having just received a standing ovation, ­outgoing vice-chancellor Professor ­Malegapuru Makgoba removed his robe as a symbolic gesture of his standing down to loud “ahhh” by the crowdaudience.

Van Jaarsveld, up for the banter, called Wits University “a little known university in Braamfontein” and deviated from his planned speech to ask Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, who was in attendance, to push funding from the Unemployment ­Insurance Fund (UIF) into tertiary ­education.

Last week, Nene said he was seeking public comment on a proposal to temporarily reduce employer and employee contributions, which could release R15 billion from the UIF’s financial surplus overthe course of a year.

“[Redirecting the funds to universities] could greatly increase graduate and post-graduate support and could last for at least 10 yearsIt will be an investment into the future,” said the new UKZN head.

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