Uni­ver­si­ties be­moan gen­der dis­par­ity

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - METRO - ED­WIN NAIDU

Uni­ver­si­ties South Africa (USAf), has broad­ened its in­ves­ti­ga­tion into gen­der dis­par­i­ties at ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions, look­ing not only at bar­ri­ers at the up­per ech­e­lons but ob­sta­cles at the lower rungs.

USAf members com­prise the heads of the coun­try’s 26 ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions.

Only four women hold vice-chan­cel­lor po­si­tions at uni­ver­si­ties in South Africa. They are: Mamokgethi Phak­eng, who be­came vice-chan­cel­lor at the Univer­sity of Cape Town in July; Pro­fes­sor Thoko Mayek­iso, who is vice-chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of Mpumalanga; Dr Sibongile Muthwa, who was ap­pointed head of the Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity in the Eastern Cape in Oc­to­ber 2017; and Pro­fes­sor Xoliswa Mtose, who is the hot seat at the Univer­sity of Zu­l­u­land.

The coun­try’s fifth fe­male vice-chan­cel­lor, Pro­fes­sor Ch­eryl de la Rey, has left the Univer­sity of Pretoria to as­sume a sim­i­lar role at New Zealand’s Univer­sity of Can­ter­bury in Fe­bru­ary.

Pro­fes­sor Ahmed Bawa, USAf chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, said the gap must be­gin to rep­re­sent it­self in the staff struc­tures of uni­ver­si­ties. “And in­deed, there are more women than men at lec­turer level. How­ever, we are not see­ing the same trend at the se­nior lev­els. And this clearly must be an area of in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said.

The is­sue of gen­der at uni­ver­si­ties came un­der the spot­light af­ter busi­ness­woman Judy Dlamini be­came chan­cel­lor of the Univer­sity of the Wit­wa­ter­srand on De­cem­ber 1, the first woman to hold the role in the univer­sity’s 96-year his­tory.

While only four women are vice-chan­cel­lors out of 26 ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try, there are nine fe­male chan­cel­lors. Six­teen men are chan­cel­lor at uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try. The post at Se­fako Mak­gatho Health Sciences Univer­sity is va­cant af­ter the death of its chan­cel­lor, Edna Molewa, the minister of en­vi­ron­men­tal af­fairs, on Septem­ber 22.

While women are strug­gling to break through the glass ceil­ing, there has been trans­for­ma­tion on an­other level. Whereas uni­ver­si­ties were once led by “pale-males”, cur­rently only three white males are lead­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions in the coun­try: Lourens van Staden, Wal­ter Sisulu Univer­sity; Pro­fes­sor Henk de Jager, Cen­tral Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy; and Pro­fes­sor Christo­pher De Beer at Se­fako Mak­gatho Health Sciences Univer­sity.

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