SEMINAR EXPLORES THE ROLE OF SOCIAL JUSTICE IN TRANSFORMING SOUTH AFRICAN HIGHER EDUCATION
By: Themba Nyovane – 25 July 2023
Recently, the Social Justice and Transformation Unit of the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) held a seminar titled “Doing Justice to Social Justice in South African Higher Education”.
Addressed by guest speaker, Dr Masebala Tjabane from the University’s Centre for Academic Development (CAD), the seminar explored ways of transforming VUT into a socially engaged progressive environment for both staff and students through social justice and transformation initiatives.
In her address, Dr Tjabane focused on essential alternatives for academic and social transformations within the University. She posed a thought-provoking question: “Are higher education institutions meant for the people or the masses, or are they for mass production?” Dr Tjabane argued that South African universities should adapt their teaching and learning curriculum to promote liberatory quality education for students, while considering their diverse backgrounds.
Furthermore, she also stressed the significance of collaborative leadership within the University to achieve social justice in higher education. She advocated for the development of new knowledge and skills in the curriculum, with a focus on contributing to the country’s socio- economic needs and the demands of the 4IR. She emphasized the need for a transformed curriculum and pedagogy that considers deep and diverse forms of knowledges while fostering 21st century skills such critical thinking, creativity and collaboration among students.
During the event, Mr George Mvalo, the Director for Social Justice and Transformation Unit VUT, highlighted the department’s commitment to driving transformation within the University, particularly in crucial areas inclusive of the academic project, employment equity and disability services. He emphasized the unit’s
Mr Mvalo encouraged the audience, that mainly included VUT staff and students, to utilize the services offered by the SJT unit particularly in relation to staff equity within the University environment. He also mentioned the university’s responsibility to facilitate access of marginalised students including students with disabilities which leads to the goal of contributing to societal transformation. Notably, he added that the institution has in place an Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP) that places emphasis on social inclusion, safety, and cohesion.
The seminar provided an enriching platform for discussions on how VUT can actively promote diversity, inclusivity, and social justice within its academic and social spheres, ultimately contributing to a more equitable and progressive higher education system in South Africa.