Sol Plaatje University aims to be model institution

2017-05-16 12:01


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Kimberley - "South Africa is looking for a model university that will achieve a series of seeming miracles."

This is according to former Wits University academic, and newly appointed Sol Plaatje (SPU) University Director of Special Projects, Professor Patrick Fitzgerald.

The university in the Northern Cape capital of Kimberley opened its doors with an intake of only 124 students in 2014 and now boasts a total of 1 050.

He said an ideal institution should allow poor students to enrol and to study, without getting into financial difficulties.

"It will also allow a high percentage of students from less disadvantaged schools to be put through and graduate," said Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald’s ideal would ensure that all students had state-of-the-art laptop computers and 24-hour high-speed internet access.

Such a model would take decades and would need massive state funding, said Fitzgerald.

Vice Chancellor and Principal Professor Yunus Ballim said the university primarily attracted "poor students from township and rural environments".

"We are nurturing young intellectual capacity, especially in previously neglected, yet much needed, study areas like Data Science," said Ballim.

Ballim said that about 60% of SPU students were enrolled in teacher training courses.

"We are serious about developing unique niche qualifications, like better trained teachers, and heritage studies," said Ballim.

'Laptops provided are garbage'

To ease the burden of tuition and accommodation, provincial districts like John Taolo Gaetsewe had provided bursaries to augment the Northern Cape Premier's Bursary Fund.

Ballim was tasked by the Department of Higher Education and Training to oversee the setting up of the new university.

He swapped his seat as Wits deputy vice chancellor for the spacious office previously occupied by the Northern Cape Premier Manne Dipico.

While student protest action did affect the academic year in 2016, there was minor infrastructural damage to campus facilities and the university managed to complete the academic year.

Meanwhile, students have scoffed at the "triumphalist" statements by university management.

"The laptops we are provided with are garbage and the internet is slow," said Solomon Motsumi, 25, a first-year Bachelor of Education student.

"I completed a diploma in retail management and I am now busy with my B-Ed. The available bursaries do not cater for subjects like history and languages for teacher training, they always insist on Maths and Science, which is unfair," he said.

According to Motsumi residence fees increased from R35 000 in 2016, to R42 000 this year.

Read more on:    kimberley  |  education

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