The ‘80s Alumni Reunion at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) kicked off last Friday (3 October 2014) with much excitement as former students from all over the country (and abroad) gathered to be part of the three-day festivities.
Friday's activities included a cocktail event, campus tours to show alumni the developments at UWC, and a gala dinner. At the gala dinner the excited chatter was almost deafening. Alumni were entertained by the smooth jazz sounds of the Delft Big Band. A big surprise was also unveiled on Friday night in the form of a donation of one million rand to the University by the Jakes Gerwel family towards the Jakes Gerwel Education and Development Fund.
Professor Brian O'Connell, Vice Chancellor of UWC, welcomed alumni, saying he recalls the eighties as being the backdrop to their academic lives. His statement that he was proud that the ‘80s alumni graduated at UWC was met with warm and enthusiastic applause and shouts of "hek toe", as they remembered their days of activism at UWC.
Saturday's festivities kicked off with stimulating discussions at the brunch conversations pertaining to leadership in the ‘80s, academic excellence and freedom, and solidarity and engaging with communities.
Saturday afternoon took on a more leisurely tone with recreational entertainment on offer such as klawerjas, a potjie competition, karaoke and jumping castles for the children. Later in the evening, it was time for alumni to bring out their dancing shoes for the ‘80s jol, which saw alumni partying till the early hours of Sunday morning as they reminisced about the old days.
The theme of Hek Toe echoed throughout the weekend, eventually culminating in a spirited march on Sunday. The Hek Toe event was particularly nostalgic of UWC in the ‘80s, as during the struggle years students and activists often marched to the gate chanting “hek toe” to protest the human rights injustices occurring in South Africa at that time. Students in the ‘80s were often met with tear-gas, and were sjamboked and tortured by the security police.
On Sunday, however, the marchers - led by 93 year-old Prof. Richard van der Ross, who was the first black UWC Rector in the 1980s; retiring Rector Professor O'Connell; and Rector designate Professor Tyrone Pretorius - exchanged flowers with a group of police during emotional moments of commemoration.
This time around the alumni, who were singing struggle songs, chanted hek toe to draw attention to current social ills such as corruption, crime, poverty, inequality and disproportionate access to education for all.
Prof. Pretorius, an ‘80s alumnus himself, said: “In the ‘80s UWC students marched against the ills of apartheid and today we march and pray in celebration of the role the University played during apartheid in freeing South Africa, and for access to education for all. Through education our youth can overcome social ills such as unemployment, crime and drug abuse. In the ‘80s the students made sacrifices and had a great appreciation for education, as it wasn't always a privilege that everyone could enjoy. The march is showing our commitment to education and life-long learning in the spirit of our former Vice-Chancellor and Madiba's right hand man, the late Professor Jakes Gerwel."
Ambassador to Thailand, Ruby Marks, an ‘80s alumna, said: “In the ‘80s popular slogans were an injury to one is an injury to all, each one teach one, and liberation through education. We need our communities to go back to this mentality as we celebrate our 20 years of democracy - education is the true liberator."
The three day ‘80s alumni event was a resounding success as it brought together old friends for a weekend of nostalgia, discussion, activism and fun. These reunions play an important role in celebrating not only the achievements of alumni, but also that of the University itself.