Vice-Chancellor's Inauguration speech
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It is indeed a great honour for me to address you this morning at this great centre of higher education that has produced generations of leaders in all diverse fields of knowledge. I entered University for the first time as a student 37 years ago with mixed feelings. On the one hand I was excited to have been admitted to do my first degree at the then new University of Transkei.

 

After all the University was a mere 45 kilometres from my home and it would be easy for me to stay in touch with my sick mother. But most importantly, all the costs of my University studies (all R670 per annum) would be covered by the then Transkei Department of Education.Without that form of financial support, I would not have afforded University education and I would have had to settle for a career as a lowly clerical worker in the civil service, a prospect that terrified me after reading Ayi Kwey Armah’s classic novel, the Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born.

On the other hand, I was very sad that I was not able to take my degree at the iconic institution, the University of Fort Hare. The University did admit me for study in the 1980 academic year and I was looking forward to joining my former school friends in Alice at the beginning of the new decade. However, a brief letter arrived at the beginning of January that year informing me that that the bursary was only tenable at the University of Transkei. It devastated me that after all the preparation and research about the University, I would not be able to study there. Seven years earlier I was part of a primary school choir that sang at the graduation party of the first Fort Hare (and University) graduate in my village who had earned his BSc (Agriculture) in Alice. The son of the shopkeeper in my mother’s home village was a student at Fort Hare. And, my brother arranged for me to meet the younger brother of his friend who was studying Fine Arts in Alice.

 

But my disappointment did not last beyond the first couple of weeks at the University of Transkei. As a matter of fact, I discovered two traits about myself which I was not conscious of up to that point. First I became aware of my love of ideas intellectual dialogue and I enjoyed studying humanities and social science subjects even though I did not have a chosen career at that stage. I thrived in an environment occupied by intelligent and inquisitive young people and the meaning of University became clear to me in those early youthful days of my life.Second, University awakened and nurtured in me my rebellious instincts and I soon learnt that being contrary in thought and action was not bad or negative. Indeed, I came to believe that raising contrary views and going against the grain of popular opinion serves to enrich public discourse and is the essence of democratic practice.

 

Thus, since my first year at University I have found the operating in the University irresistible. Since that year I have only been away from the University for five full years, that is, those years during which I was not registered as a student and I did not maintain and real contact with its staff or students. But I have retained my rebellious instincts ever since!  At this point I need to explain how I understood the term ‘rebel’ with reference to my own life. I have always understood rebellion as a series of thoughts and actions that seek to challenge the status quo, that aim to oppose unjust or unfair conduct by individuals and institutions and that are intended to change the conduct of individuals, institutions and society for the better. Apart from the instrumental roles of earning academic qualifications and performing work roles in pursuit of careers, I have spent the last nearly four decades interacting with ideas and ‘rebelling’ against people, institutions and social systems. Most of these acts have been individual and low profile. I derive the greatest satisfaction when the impact of my actions remains unrecorded and when the beneficiaries are able to effect changes to benefit others they encounter. 

 

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