UFH opens for the new academic year
The East London campus saw a day filled with excitement and anticipation as the new VC, Prof. Sakhela Buhlungu made his first official appearance in this campus for the 2017 opening ceremony of the university’s East London campus. He is former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities from the University of Cape Town. This well attended event was held at the ABC Hall graced by management, academics, admin staff and students alike. In his introduction, Prof Mayende, DVC IS, who acted as VC for the month of January, remarked on the scholarly nature of Prof Buhlungu, alluding to his more than 50 publications.
Prof. Buhlungu acknowledged the guidance that he received from his predecessor, Prof Mvuyo Tom and credited him for laying a solid foundation for this university’s future. He remarked that due to this, he has inherited a stable institution wherein there is much more commendable dialogue between students and management than in other institutions. He urged people to honour the transformational values that would take the university to greater heights some of which are excellence, innovation and integrity, remarking that they should not take for granted what the university has achieved thus far.
He spoke of the common perception held of the University of Fort Hare being a struggling university and urged the university community to hold hands in dispelling such perceptions, some of which are based on prejudice. He therefore made reference to all the achievements of the university (PhD graduate output, publications etc) and said these are examples that this university is not struggling. He also mentioned that the university has reached some financial stability, thanks to the hard work of its management and council.
His concerns, which he expressed as issues that affect the performance of the university were: the poor performance of the school system and the province’s poor matric results, poverty and inequality that continue to grow especially from where the university draws its students and staff. He also mentioned that based on the location and development of the university, very few students and staff consider it as a first choice, and the university needs to engage the local government on this. Related to this, he expressed his solid support for rights to protest; importantly though, he mentioned that the community needs to engage in hard debates about the nature of protests to engage in, those which do not affect rights of other individuals nor resources that the students will need to use in the institution in future.
The VC pointed out a number of shortfalls that he has observed that do not put the university in good stead, amongst them are: Marketing and Communication as the weakest link that “has got to change”, contracts and service providers, ethics of service - clients should be served with dignity and respect, productivity of academics, including the positioning of our research and visibility in the national discourse, very weak alumni relations, fragmentation and duplication as a result of the multi-campus model and UFH as a catalyst for development needing organic community links and collaborations. In spite of these observations, he intimated that the year ahead holds a promise for the future as the university has and continues to register students, which some universities are unable to do due to the effects of 2016’s fees must fall movement.