Rhodes head vows to help needy

Rhodes vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela and principal registrar Stephen Fourie at the inauguration in Grahamstown
Rhodes vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela and principal registrar Stephen Fourie at the inauguration in Grahamstown

DRIVEN by a deep-seated desire to make a difference, Rhodes University vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela has personally committed himself to come to the aid of financially needy but academically deserving students whose parents are public servants.

Mabizela spoke to rapturous applause at his inauguration at the Settler’s Monument auditorium in Grahamstown last night. The audience included some of the Eastern Cape’s prominent political families – the Bikos and Mxenges – and Mabizela’s wife Dr Phethiwe Matutu and daughters Zama and Zinzi, who went wild with excitement as chancellor Justice Lex Mpati installed Mabizela in his new position.

Speakers included Makana mayor Zamuxolo Peter, Rhodes professor Tebello Nyokong, Higher Education SA’s Dr Max Price and SRC president S Makhubo.

Ululations and laughter rang out as students, staff, unionists and academics welcomed Mabizela as vice-chancellor.

Mabizela was praised as a highly capable leader who had what it took to take the institution to new heights, while being the “humble man to whom everyone mattered, from cleaners to students and senior staff”.

In his speech Mabizela noted how a significant number of students born to parents who were teachers, nurses and police officers were not catered for in terms of financial aid as their family income just crossed the scheme’s threshold, but was not enough to fund tuition.

Mabizela committed himself to another “salary sacrifice” to contribute to a bursary fund set up to help academically talented but needy students.

“As vice-chancellor of Rhodes University, I will make it my personal mission to strive to ensure that no academically talented, but financially needy, student is turned away from Rhodes University. I call on our staff, students, alumni, donors and the private sector to make a contribution in this endeavour,” he said.

“When I became a deputy vice-chancellor, I made a salary sacrifice to contribute to a bursary fund intended to help [these] students. In my capacity as vice-chancellor, I am able to increase this salary sacrifice in order to advance our strategic objective to make higher education accessible to those who come from poor families.”

Mabizela is the university’s sixth vice-chancellor, taking over the baton from Dr Saleem Badat, who took up a post with the US-based Andrew W Mellon Foundation as its first programme director for international higher education and strategic projects.

Increasing students’ access to the university is one of 10 goals Mabizela has set out for his period at the university’s helm.

Others include a commitment to working closely with the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, University of Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu University to help improve the quality of basic education in the province.

He said Rhodes would, with the Grahamstown education district office, help improve the quality of teaching and learning and arm pupils with the skills needed for success at university.

“As an institution of higher learning, we cannot sit and watch when young people amongst us are condemned to a life without hope; a life of despair because of the failure to provide them with the education they need and deserve,” he said.

-Zandile Mbabela

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