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A university that defies barriers to deliver education for the marginalised

In celebration of Unisa's 150th anniversary, esteemed scholars and industry giants share their thoughts on how this august university positively impacts society in South Africa and the globe.

Professors Mamokgethi Phakeng and Marvin Lynn

Mamokgethi Phakeng, Professor of Mathematics Education, former Unisa Vice-Principal: Research and Innovation and former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town

Any university can offer higher education qualifications, but Unisa can reach the unreachable. These include those from disadvantaged backgrounds, prisoners and hard labour workers who never had access to education.

Additionally, the university serves employed individuals who cannot attend physical lectures, and students with disabilities who may not be comfortable in the same class with people who might not accept them. Therefore, Unisa is fundamental in the history and future of South Africa.

Prof Marvin Lynn, Dean: School of Education and Human Development, University of Colorado Denver

Unisa is a world-class research institution that serves indigenous South Africans and diverse groups of other Africans from neighbouring countries. As indigenous South Africans have historically been denied access to higher education, the university is an important vehicle for advancing social mobility for historically marginalised people.

I have had the privilege of being invited to present a series of lectures at the university. I encountered outstanding scholars who engaged me in substantive dialogues about the global nature of race and racism and their relationship to issues such as indigeneity, culture, language and social class. I, therefore, hold Unisa in the highest regard.

Dr Godson Gatsha, Zama 'ZZ' Masondo and Jan Nitschke

Dr Godson Gatsha, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Services, Botswana Open University

In its 150 years of existence, Unisa has transformed the lives of those who previously did not have learning opportunities for decent and sustainable livelihoods across the African continent and the globe. The university has defied apartheid barriers and delivered education and training to those in marginalised contexts, leaving no one behind. As a leader of open and distance e-learning (ODeL), Unisa's societal impact extends far beyond South Africa and the Southern Development Community (SADC), defying misconceptions about ODeL. The creation of the ODeL model has contributed to pedagogy for global benchmarking and made it a discipline through research, scholarship and excellent global thought leadership.

This mega university has developed political leaders in various states within the SADC region and produced great intellects locally and abroad. Through global partnerships with various inter-governmental organisations such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and Commonwealth of Learning (COL), and International Council of Distance Education (ICDE), the institution makes impactful contributions globally to individuals, communities and industries. I am pleased to join Unisa's 150th anniversary celebration.

Zama 'ZZ' Masondo, Unisa alumnus and South Africa's legendary sports broadcaster

I regard myself as the happiest member of society, having graduated against all odds with a Master of Arts in African Languages at Unisa. I was determined to inspire and be exemplary to society members who did not believe that age is nothing but a number, as I got this qualification in my early 70s. Through my dissertation, Unisa enabled me to reflect on my passion for indigenous languages. Evident in my broadcasting, this passion is an example, especially to the South African youth that may not be confident to embrace their indigenous languages on television.

Having created indigenous catch phrases such as Laduuuuma! Ngonyawo Lonwabuu! Zimb'jndaba Madoda!, I am proud to embrace African languages and thank Unisa for that contribution. Inkunzi beyivimba, beyivimba  izwelonke, ithi: Halala Unisa! Nkomazi encelise ngemfundo abadala nabancane. Congratulations, Unisa, on your 150th anniversary.  

Jan Nitschke, Director: Curriculum and Materials Development, Namibian College of Open Learning (NAMCOL)

Unisa is a market leader to most ODeL institutions, and I am proud to have done a non-degree course at the university. Studying through correspondence at this university enabled me to advance my career. ODeL is instrumental in building industry professionals and entrepreneurs who can contribute significantly to global social and economic development.

As NAMCOL, we collaborated with Unisa to offer some of their post-school programmes. Through this experience, NAMCOL has progressed in introducing tertiary programmes. We are grateful to Unisa for setting the trend and allowing us to learn from them. We wish the institution well; it strives for excellence and continues to make meaningful contributions to many people's lives and learning institutions worldwide.

#Unisa150      #Unisa150Stories

* By Nancy Legodi, Acting Senior Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2023/03/20

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