There’s no such thing as ‘sep­a­rate but equal’

NWU plans to in­crease di­ver­sity — and qual­ity — at all its cam­puses

Sunday Times - - News | Education - By PREGA GOVENDER

● North-West Univer­sity stu­dents are still largely di­vided along racial lines — most of the stu­dents at its Potchef­stroom cam­pus are white while the ma­jor­ity of those at Mahikeng and Vaal Tri­an­gle are black.

Vice-chan­cel­lor Dan Kg­wadi is hop­ing to dra­mat­i­cally change this by in­tro­duc­ing a mul­ti­lin­gual lan­guage pol­icy whereby nei­ther English nor Afrikaans will be the dom­i­nant lan­guage at any of its three cam­puses.

Setswana and Se­sotho will also be­come lan­guages of in­struc­tion once the pol­icy is ap­proved by the univer­sity’s coun­cil.

Should the se­nate ac­cept and rec­om­mend the lan­guage pol­icy to the coun­cil, it will take a de­ci­sion at its next meet­ing on Septem­ber 27.

This year, the univer­sity’s full-time stu­dent pop­u­la­tion is 57.6% black African and 37.7% white. At the Potchef­stroom cam­pus, 66% of stu­dents are white and 26.9% black. At Mahikeng, al­most 98.4% of stu­dents are black and 0.5% white.

“In terms of the de­mo­graph­ics [for all cam­puses], you would think it looks OK, but when you go to the cam­puses you see a skewedness that is re­flec­tive of the coun­try’s his­tory,” Kg­wadi said.

“We are still a replica of the coun­try’s his­tory. It’s un­ac­cept­able. We must ac­knowl­edge that we are not as di­verse as we should be.”

He said a di­verse in­sti­tu­tion would be an in­di­ca­tion of qual­ity.

“This in­cludes an ex­change of views, stu­dent learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and how much they learn from each other. It’s im­por­tant for the univer­sity to pro­vide that di­verse plat­form for stu­dents to learn from in­side and out­side a class­room.”

Kg­wadi said the new pol­icy would not al­low lan­guage to be a bar­rier to ac­cess.

“It’s a per­cep­tion that qual­ity is bet­ter else­where. Af­ter we ad­dress this per­cep­tion, it will be au­to­matic that a white stu­dent near Mahikeng will not nec­es­sar­ily want to study at Potchef­stroom.”

He said that un­like most univer­si­ties, where English is the medium of in­struc­tion, NWU had adopted a func­tional mul­ti­lin­gual pol­icy in which English, Afrikaans and Setswana were used in­ter­change­ably.

“We have now adopted a lan­guage pol­icy that does not re­ally as­sign any lan­guage to a cam­pus.

“We have to con­vince the author­i­ties from a qual­ity point of view we are in­clu­sive. At some point we will have to of­fer par­al­lelmedium classes. This is what we are propos­ing.”

Kg­wadi, 51, took over as vice-chan­cel­lor of NWU in April 2014, just months af­ter an out­cry over an ori­en­ta­tion pro­gramme for first-year stu­dents at Potchef­stroom who dressed in uni­form and made a Nazi-style fas­cist salute.

He was con­fronted with a fed­eral univer­sity and “a model based on sep­a­rate de­vel­op­ment”, in which each cam­pus had its own fac­ul­ties, man­age­ment and aca­demic pro­grammes.

There were 15 fac­ul­ties, in­clud­ing two law fac­ul­ties, three ed­u­ca­tion fac­ul­ties and two busi­ness schools.

Kg­wadi said the con­tent of the mod­ules and even the pre­scribed text­books were dif­fer­ent at the Potchef­stroom and Mahikeng cam­puses. “It was truly sep­a­rate, but the cer­tifi­cate was the same. It was not a sin­gle univer­sity as such, so the first thing was to come up with a strat­egy to es­tab­lish NWU as a uni­tary in­sti­tu­tion of su­pe­rior aca­demic ex­cel­lence.”

He re­duced the 15 fac­ul­ties to eight and spread the deans around the three cam­puses. The dean of the eco­nomic and man­age­ment sci­ences is based at Mahikeng while the dean of nat­u­ral and agri­cul­tural sci­ences is at the Vaal. The deans of the six other fac­ul­ties are sta­tioned at Potchef­stroom.

“We want to en­sure all the sites of de­liv­ery have a strong aca­demic pres­ence, so no cam­pus be­comes a satel­lite. There is no stigma at­tached to the one be­ing su­pe­rior to the oth­ers.”

Kg­wadi com­pleted a BSc de­gree in 1989 at the former Univer­sity of Bo­phuthatswana, which is now the NWU Mahikeng cam­pus.

He com­pleted a doc­tor­ate at the former Potchef­stroom Univer­sity for Chris­tian Higher Ed­u­ca­tion.

He joked that when he was ap­pointed the first rec­tor of the Mahikeng cam­pus in 2005, af­ter NWU was es­tab­lished a year ear­lier, he had to aban­don his MBA stud­ies be­cause he could not sign his own cer­tifi­cate.

It’s un­ac­cept­able. We must ac­knowl­edge that we are not as di­verse as we should be

Pic­ture: Wil­lie du Plessis

Dan Kg­wadi, 51, took over as vice-chan­cel­lor of NWU in April 2014.

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