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Closing ceremony reflects on 150 years of excellence and resilience

On 13 December 2023, Unisa hosted the closing ceremony of its academic year under the theme Reclaiming Africa’s intellectual futures into the next 150 years and beyond at the university’s main campus, marking an end to a year that has borne many challenges worth learning from and momentous celebrations worth etching on the walls of excellence.

Click here to watch a video celebrating Unisa’s highlights during 2023.

A celebration of resilience


Outgoing Council Chair, James Maboa

Unisa Chair of Council, James Maboa, said that it is behind the walls of the ZK Matthews Great Hall that the Unisa community meets at the beginning of every academic year to outline the programme for the year, and again at the end of each year to reflect on successes, challenges and milestones of the year that has been. He stated that it is a singular honour for him to address this gathering at a historic moment at Unisa when it is celebrating 150 years of shaping the futures of many people in the country, the continent and the world.

He said that during the year, the university encountered many challenges. He explained: "Many of the university’s detractors and doomsayers went into overdrive in an attempt to pull the carpet from under our feet and defocus the academic agenda. At times it was extremely burdensome on the soul and the mind. However, in the midst of the relentless public attacks against the university, and the persistent demonisation of its leadership, what was encouraging was the resolve displayed by both our academic and support staff who remained unshaken and focused on the bigger picture, to ensure that the business of the university continues unabated and the mission to restore and maintain its stature remains on track." In addition, Maboa stated that staff ensured that teaching and learning, and the production of quality graduates for the country, stay on track.

Maboa stated that 96% of examinations have been marked – a statement welcomed by resounding applause. He continued: "This demonstrates that despite the difficulties, Unisans remain resilient, and on behalf of Council, we congratulate all of you profusely."

He stated that despite the difficulties faced by Unisa, the academic project of the university remains intact, as can be witnessed by the increase in the NRF-rated researchers, accolades won by academics at various forums such as the South African Women in Science Awards, and the South African National Orders conferred by the President of the country, among others.

He stated that the university has some of the brightest and most dedicated minds this country has to offer who are ready to take up the baton and run the race towards institutional greatness. He concluded: "Long may the Unisa brand live for the next 150 years in shaping futures."

A university that stood the test of time


Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Prof Puleng LenkaBula

In her keynote address, Unisa Principal and Vice-Chancellor (VC), Prof Puleng LenkaBula, stated that the closing ceremony is an occasion where the university takes stock of the achievements, lessons and contradictions that took place, and learns from them.

She continued: "The ebbs and flows of the year that was, are a testament of the resilient character of the university, its people and its leaders, and its most valued stakeholders, its students."

"Our achievements," she stated, "are the surest indicator that the university is on an upward trajectory which is characterised by renewal, hope and excellence, and for that we should be grateful and proud to be Unisans." The VC stated that the single most important achievement of the university is reaching the historic milestone of 150 years. In addition, she stated that in the midst of contestations and contradictions, the university offered hope to millions of South Africans and Africans in the global knowledge arena. The VC continued to state that the university remains true to its core mandate despite the challenges it faced. This mandate includes teaching, learning, research, engaged scholarship, innovative futures and forming students as participants in the social arena.

The VC stated that the university is an institution that produces quality leaders, and went on to laud Prof Khehla Ndlovu, Vice-Principal of Strategy, Risk and Advisory Services, for his appointment as Principal and VC of the Vaal University of Technology as of 1 February 2024.


Chief Information Officer and Vice-Principal: Information and Communications Technology, Mathabo Nakene-Mginqi

During this moment of elation, the VC continued to state the number of academics who are internationally cited as the top 2%, mentioning Professors Hossein Jafari, Godwell Nhamo, Adele Da Veiga and Malik Maaza, among others.

The VC applauded and thanked the outgoing Chair of Council for his unwavering  commitment to the university. She concluded: "Thank you, sir, and all the best in your future endeavours, and thank you to all Council members who were your support as you steered the Council into supporting the academic project."

The Unisa app

Mathabo Nakene-Mginqi, Chief Information Officer and Vice-Principal: Information and Communications Technology, took the opportunity to introduce the university’s student mobile app. Its development is a collaborative effort between the Registrar’s portfolio, the Teaching and Learning portfolio, and the communications team of the university. She stated that the app is ready for use, but is limited to Android users at the moment. She continued: "We are finalising placement in the Apple store, and it will be deployed to the Huawei app store shortly." The app, she said, will improve engagement between students and the university with cutting-edge functionality that offers seamless operation.


Unisa's top students for 2023 received certificates for excelling in their various fields of study

During the event, Prof Zethu Nkosi, Execute Dean of the College of Human Sciences, introduced this year’s top performing graduates, who were awarded certificates and bursaries to recognise their hard work and academic prowess in the following categories:

  • Council Graduate Excellence Award
  • Senate Graduate Excellence Awards
  • College Graduate Excellence Awards


Standing, front row, from left: Dr Phumzile Dlamini, Director: Human Resources, with the Unisa choir, holding placards pleading for an end to gender-based violence and femicide

The ceremony was concluded with a demonstration against gender-based violence, which commemorated the recent 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children Campaign. This year marks the 25th anniversary of South Africa’s adoption of the campaign to raise awareness of the devastating impact that gender-based violence and femicide have on women and children, and the social fabric of society.


* By Godfrey Madibane, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

** Photography by Shooheima Champion, Multimedia Centre

Publish date: 2023/12/14

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