Vice Chancellor meets local traditional leaders
A very special event took place on 19 April 2017! The Vice Chancellor, Professor Sakhela Buhlungu was introduced to the Traditional Leaders who lead 146 villages in areas surrounding Alice. What evolved during this meeting was a unifying message of connectedness and mutual respect in re-building the future of our University.
The meeting was chaired by Nkosi Mavuso traditional leader for AmabheleAselenge, and Chairperson of the Raymond Mhlaba (previously, Nkonkobe) Traditional Leaders’ Forum. One of his recollections was on how they as young children sneaked into the Alice campus to swim in the then only swimming pool in town. The shared recollections and stories of traditional leaders, some being alumni highlighted processes of co-evolution, co-existence and co-ownership of university and town. It became clear that the consequences of allowing the decay of Alice town will ultimately result in similar decline of our University. We realised how we are intrinsically linked to each other and that we in our attempts to survive cannot disregardeach other.
Presentations by academics focussed on how communities perceive the research and engagement endeavours of universities and how these perceptions can be addressed through ethical engagement, responsible research and collaborative trans-disciplinary efforts. The value of this approach was demonstrated by the ways in which communities, academics and students experienced the impact of collaboration and mutually beneficial processes.
Being the last speaker of the day the VC fused the storylines in an inspirational way. He did not speak to the audience but rather with them in a language mirroring respect for their part of renovating the past into the future. He embraced the importance of our surrounding communities and the important role traditional leaders and other stakeholders play in these communities. He reminded us that we are co-responsible for the ruins and legacies we leave behind. As responsible citizens we would only succeed if we embrace and carry each other towards a collective vison to the future.
Collaboration does not have an ego. The exceptional way in which the VC respectfully observed, listened and unified the storylines of this meeting turned out to be an analogy of the outcomes of viable change processes and excellence in collaboration. No person or group can be singled out for making this day special and memorable. Collaboration turned out to be the champion. The efforts of the Traditional leaders, all members of the Nkonkobe Research Group and Steering Committee, as well as the departments, academics, students, Centres and other institutions that are involved in the project “Development and learning opportunities in the Raymond Mhlaba (Nkonkobe) traditional communities benefitting both the communities and the University of Fort Hare (UFH)” should be applauded.