27 January 2024

[MAKHANDA] Universities should play a significant and meaningful role in community efforts to transform the cities in which they are located. That’s according to Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sizwe Mabizela. He was speaking on the first day of the Makhanda Education Summit, in the Eastern Cape, on Saturday, 27 January.

In 2013, Makhanda (then known as Grahamstown) was the 10th worst-performing education district in the country. Recognising this as the crisis it was, the university immediately partnered with various stakeholders, introducing a range of interventions at primary and high schools in the city.

Some of the strongest indicators of the performance transformation following this collaboration, led by Prof Mabizela, include:

Over the past decade, Makhanda has risen from being almost anonymous in its educational outputs to being the leading educational city in the Eastern Cape. This has been possible with a wide-ranging collective effort involving numerous public, civil society and private institutions as well as donors.

“As the proverb goes, it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”, said Professor Mabizela. “Lighting a candle forces us to focus on the sphere in which our influence lies. Through a strategic and focused plan, we have illuminated every corner of the city, fostering a globally engaged, locally responsive approach to education. Makhanda has set a template for the entire educational landscape of South Africa.”

He added: “We firmly believe that the milestones we have managed to achieve through strategic interventions and partnerships, should ignite a nationwide conversation on how universities can play a pivotal role in democratising access to quality education. This is a clarion call for reflection and inspiration, for other institutions to begin to actively engage their communities and to shape a future where universities are not just located in a city but form an integral part of the community within that city. Our hope is that our journey will inspire a national movement where universities, stakeholders, and communities rally together for the collective upliftment of education.”

The conference continues tomorrow. – ENDS-

View Education Chronology Timeline Infographic_final 

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