Dr Paulina Machika, Executive Director: CAD; Dr Lester Shawa Senior Lecturer in Higher Education Training and Development in UKZN and Professor Benon Basheka, the current Vice-Chancellor of UTAMU
It was at a symposium at Stonehaven Hotel, on 8 June when lecturers and industry experts came together to discuss ways to improve first-year students’ experiences at the Vaal University of Technology.
The Centre for Academic Development (CAD) organised this event with the aim of improving academic achievement. Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Gordon Zide welcomed all the guests and gave the platform to the convener of the day, Dr Tebogo Kekana who introduced the important topics to be addressed by keynote speakers.
Professor Benon Basheka, Vice-Chancellor of Uganda Technology and Management University (UTAMU), unpacked the role of technology and learning in the 21st Century. He said African universities are faced with increased demands from various stakeholders, particularly students, and technology must be used to solve such matters. Lecturers are now required to be knowledgeable about technology and e-learning to tackle issues of changing demands, technology and globalisation.
Dr Lester Shawa, Senior Lecturer in Higher Education Training Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) touched on the issues of socialisation and institutional culture and their effects on teaching first-year students. Dr Shawa clarified his topic by using Weidman’s model of educational socialisation and encouraged the lecturers to reflect on their role and link it to socialisation. “We do not just teach for knowledge but to contribute to human beings,” he said.
Professor Kuzvinetsa Dzvimbo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Research at VUT gave the last keynote address and said some of the strategies for achieving academic excellence included lecturers continually improving their skills and the University and government supporting this.
During a panel discussion, lecturers expressed their appreciation for being engaged in socialisation as they come from different fields, such as technology, and are not prepared for such issues. Ms Chiware, a lecturer from the Communication Department, also raised the issue of language as it is a huge challenge for international students and impacts on socialisation.
First-year lecturers from all VUT campuses attended and made a meaningful contribution to the First-Year Experience Symposium. All of them agreed with the Public Relations and Marketing directors when they said lecturers will contribute positively if they follow the vision, mission, values and the motto of the institution.