New univer­sity boss swaps coast for lowveld

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

Pro­fes­sor Thokozile Mayek­iso will miss the sea.

The 58-year-old is pre­par­ing to swap a 17thfloor of­fice at Port El­iz­a­beth’s Nel­son Man­dela Met­ro­pol­i­tan Univer­sity (NMMU) for the vicechan­cel­lor and prin­ci­pal’s of­fice at the brand­new Univer­sity of Mpumalanga.

Mayek­iso starts her new job on Novem­ber 1 and was in the lowveld last week to ex­plore the univer­sity’s three cam­puses.

Dur­ing a three-day visit to the cam­pus, she chat­ted to stu­dents and lec­tur­ers, and got a feel for the in­sti­tu­tion – and the scenery.

“I’m ex­cited about the Mpumalanga land­scape. I like the fact that it’s green and close to na­ture ... but I’ll miss the ocean,” says the mother of two adult chil­dren.

She ad­mits she’s still find­ing her bear­ings, re­fer­ring some ques­tions to the univer­sity’s head of aca­demics, Pro­fes­sor Ra­ma­ranka Mo­got­lane.

But in her quiet, calm way, she is ready.

“It’s an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity to start some­thing from scratch and to use my ex­pe­ri­ence from the Univer­sity of Transkei [now Wal­ter Sisulu Univer­sity], Wits and NMMU. Th­ese are dif­fer­ent types of in­sti­tu­tions – and the Univer­sity of Mpumalanga is also unique.”

Mayek­iso’s cur­ricu­lum vi­tae is a co­pi­ous 28 pages – ev­i­dence of the long road she has trav­elled in academia, here and in the UK and Ger­many.

Psy­chol­ogy is her dis­ci­pline and she’s lec­tured, su­per­vised and been pub­lished ex­ten­sively. Her first or­der of business in­volves some or­gan­i­sa­tional psy­chol­ogy: Mayek­iso and her team need to em­ploy a strong man­age­ment team to for­mu­late the univer­sity’s poli­cies. Mayek­iso’s deputies are pro­fes­sors Ric Bernard and Rach­mond Howard. The univer­sity’s regis­trar is Sello Le­godi.

Cur­rently, the in­sti­tu­tion has 40 stu­dents study­ing for a Bach­e­lor of Agri­cul­ture and 60 for an agri­cul­tural diploma, 20 stu­dents at the Mpumalanga Re­gional Train­ing Trust and 108 pre­par­ing for the Bach­e­lor of Ed­u­ca­tion (Foun­da­tion Phase Teach­ing) at the for­mer KwaN­de­bele Col­lege

Pro­fes­sor Thokozile Mayek­iso of Ed­u­ca­tion.

The team is also think­ing about what pro­grammes to of­fer from next year and in 2016.

One on the radar for 2015 is an in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy diploma, says Mo­got­lane.

They’re also eye­ing the Mpumalanga Col­lege of Nurs­ing in KaBok­weni – they’d like to ab­sorb it into the univer­sity’s health sci­ence fac­ulty in the fu­ture.

Mayek­iso is happy to start slowly. “We want to pro­duce qual­ity stu­dents and get pos­i­tive feed­back from em­ploy­ers. The process for hav­ing pro­grammes ap­proved takes 18 months.

“Our next pro­grammes should be in en­gi­neer­ing, health sciences and hu­man sciences,” she says.

The pro­grammes will in­crease as the cam­puses ex­pand, and it’s ex­pected there will be be­tween 18 000 and 20 000 stu­dents en­rolled at the univer­sity by 2025 for cer­tifi­cate, diploma and de­gree pro­grammes.

“We see this as a na­tional in­sti­tu­tion with a role to play on the African con­ti­nent and the Mpumalanga com­mu­nity. And when we of­fer all pro­grammes, we’ll en­rol stu­dents from all over Africa and over­seas,” she says.

For now, she’s back in Port El­iz­a­beth for one more month, drink­ing in the sea view.

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