Minister Derek Hanekom on the Dynamics of Building a Better Society
“Today we face global challenges – so why not face them together? We also face our own specific challenges, but they are rarely unique. Surely there is much that we can learn from one another, especially when we work collaboratively.”
Those were the words of South African Minister of Science and Technology, the Hon Derek Hanekom, at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) on Monday 3 February 2014.
Hanekom was delivering a keynote address on “Science and knowledge challenges, and the importance of inter-university cooperation at the University of the Western Cape”, celebrating the Dynamics of Building a Better Society (DBBS) programme. DBBS is a 10-year programme of successful inter-university collaboration between UWC and the Flemish Inter-University Council.
The DBBS programme pursued a strategy of developing research capacity at UWC – not just in the abstract by building skill sets, but also by cultivating capacity through applied practice. Among other things, the programme provided better-equipped postgraduate computer laboratories and assisted in the conceptual shift toward student development and support.
“I would like to acknowledge the important contribution made by the Flemish Inter-University Council – and, by extension, the Flanders and Belgian governments – to the emergence of the University of the Western Cape as one of South Africa's finest institutions of higher learning and research,” Hanekom said. “Their generosity has strengthened UWC as an institution in various ways – by supporting research projects and new research centres, by giving junior academics a boost towards completing their postgraduate studies, and by financing greater student mobility through bursaries.”
Hanekom stressed that this was not just a matter of celebrating past glories. “Although we are here to celebrate the closing of the 10-year programme between the University of the Western Cape and the Flemish Inter-University Council, we are certainly not declaring an end to the partnership, which will continue to create a stronger university, new research centres, new PhD graduates, and new knowledge.”
The celebration came at an auspicious time, coinciding with the celebration of twenty years of freedom, democracy and achievement in South Africa. “Without democracy in our country, this would not have been possible. Without meaningful partnerships, our democracy would have been hollow. The DBBS programme epitomises what can be accomplished when we put our heads together.”