Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu praised for his contribution to education

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  • The late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has been praised for his contribution to education. 
  • Tutu died on Sunday.  
  • He served as a chancellor at the University of the Western Cape for 25 years. 

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who died on Sunday, was lauded for his commitment to education. 

Tributes poured in from different quarters, including the South African higher education sector.

WATCH | City of Cape Town to pay special tributes to Desmond Tutu in build-up to funeral

The University of the Western Cape (UWC), where he served as a chancellor for 25 years, described him as a guide. 

"Archbishop Desmond Tutu was one of those rare personalities whose greatness inspires rather than diminishes. And he had no shortage of greatness – his strength of character shone through in his decades of resistance to government oppression and corruption, in his willingness to stand up for what he believed in, and in his moral leadership and quiet compassion for the suffering. 

"He taught us all that we can only be our true selves if we help others be their true selves and that justice, truth and forgiveness can work together for a better world. His passing leaves a hole in the soul of our nation, and I hope we all do our part to try to fill it," said Professor Tyrone Pretorius, UWC rector and vice-chancellor. 

READ | 'He was at peace': Tutu was surrounded by family in his final hours

Tutu, a trained high school teacher, took up the chancellor position at UWC in 1987.

Pretorius said Tutu and then rector, the late Professor Jakes Gerwel, helped UWC chart a course through the turbulent 1980s as the intellectual home of the left and subsequently helped the university find its way in a new world where quality education could change the lives of students from all walks of life.

"His service as chancellor for the University of the Western Cape over an unprecedented 25 years helped to build the foundation of what we are today. We've gone from a bush college to an engaged research-led, learning and teaching university that is ranked among the world's finest - and we couldn't have done it without Desmond Tutu's leadership and his inspiring example," Pretorius said. 

The Cape Peninsula University of Technology said in a statement that it had a special relationship with Tutu and that they collaborated on several initiatives to promote peace in South Africa. 

READ | The world is different because of Tutu, says Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

"Some of these collaborations included the Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture Series, which invited a range of civic leaders to discuss issues related to ethical leadership and peace in SA. The Desmond Tutu Peace Train Symposium brought together promising young students and trained them in peace-promoting techniques to build a lasting legacy," said vice-chancellor, Professor Chris Nhlapo.  He described Tutu as an "extraordinary leader who never shirked away from talking truth to power".

Nhlapo continued:

He never held back on confronting thorny subjects like the Middle East conflict, war crimes, corruption and nepotism. Toeing the politically correct line never phased him.

Wits University said Tutu was "humanitarian and an honourable leader who always fought for social justice." Tutu received an honorary doctorate from Wits in 1993. 

He also received an honorary doctorate from Stellenbosch University where he was patron of the Desmond Tutu TB Centre.

Founding director of the centre Professor Nulda Beyers said everyone at the centre was "hugely grateful to the Arch for his involvement and support, and for being a wonderful role model".

Tutu received an honorary doctorate from Stellenbosch University (SU) in 2002 in recognition of his role "as a leader in the struggle for justice and reconciliation in South Africa". He was also the patron of the Desmond Tutu TB Centre (DTTC) in Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Tygerberg, Cape Town.

His successor and current director, Professor Anneke Hesseling, said "his is a living legacy which inspires us on a daily basis".

Stellenbosch University's rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Wim de Villiers described Tutu as a figure of great moral authority, and someone who had boundless empathy with all people.

"He freely gave of his time and energy to improve the lives of others," De Villiers said.

The University of South Africa said: "Beyond the struggle for liberation, the Arch was also a relentless crusader for justice and fairness, whose global solidarity with the poor and marginalised and for standing with people living with HIV when stigmatisation was rife is well documented." 

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