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2 July 2021
Leadership For Tough Times: New Deans Appointed For UWC

In trying times, it’s important for institutions to have strong leadership - therefore the University of the Western Cape (UWC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Professor Burtram Fielding as the new Dean of Natural Sciences and Professor Rajendran Govender as the new Dean of Education, and the reappointment of Professor Anthea Rhoda as the Dean of Community and Health Sciences.

“UWC is home to a community of thousands - students, academics, and professional and support staff members - who are among the most talented and dedicated in their field,” said Prof Tyrone Pretorius, UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor. “And it is this dedication that has helped us weather a global pandemic that saw unprecedented social, economic and organisational disruption. That is in no small part due to the leadership displayed by these three exceptional individuals.”

Prof Burtram Fielding is the lead researcher at UWC’s Molecular Biology and Virology Research Laboratory, and also the university’s Research Development director, and he has helped UWC grow its stature as a world-class research institution . A proud UWC alum, he holds a BSc, Honours (cum laude) and PhD in Microbiology and Physiology from the university, and has also completed an MPhil in Management Coaching (cum laude) from the University of Stellenbosch Business School. He has worked as a Research Fellow in the Collaborative Antiviral Research Group at the Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology, Singapore from 2003 to 2006, where he studied the coronavirus (SARS-CoV) responsible for the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. 


His decades of work on coronaviruses have cemented his status as one of the foremost experts on SARS-CoV-2 in South Africa, and the world, and he has mentored several students whose work has advanced our understanding of the current pandemic.

“The fundamental purpose of science is to ask questions,” he said. “We want to understand ourselves, and the world, and the universe. But more than that, we want to contribute. We have a responsibility to share what we’ve learned, and to learn from others, and to put what we learn towards the service of others. Simply put, science and research are done for the benefit of the public, for society. That’s been at the heart of my experience of science at UWC - and that’s what I want to continue to promote and grow at the university.””

Prof Rajendran Govender is an Associate Professor in Mathematics Education in the School of Science and Mathematics Education. He served as Deputy Dean of Teaching and Learning in the Faculty of Education from 2017, and as Acting Dean of the Faculty for the last year. A learner as well as an educator, Prof Govender holds a string of qualifications: UDE (UDW), BSc (UNISA), BSc Hon (UDW), MED (UDW), PhD (UKZN) and PGDip in Higher Ed- Teaching & Learning (cum laude).He started teaching school mathematics in 1985, becoming a college mathematics lecturer in 1995, mathematics subject advisor in 2002, and a University Mathematics Education Lecturer in 2003. Prof Govender is a member of several committees including the Editor-in-Chief of Pythagoras and is the President of the Association for Mathematics Education of South Africa. 


As Acting Dean, Prof Govender has helped the Faculty navigate massive disruptions to education, and tested and established new pedagogical methods.

“It is my honour and privilege to accept this position,” he said. “I know it is a significant commitment, but with the support of my staff, I am prepared to build upon the successes of the past and take the Faculty of Education to greater heights. Ensuring quality teacher education is one of the most important things we can do for future generations - and working together, we can provide opportunities for an excellent learning and teaching experience that is contextually responsive to the challenges of the 21st century and of a society in transition, and that enhances our students’ capacities for the world of work in the new normal brought about by COVID-19.”

Prof Anthea Rhoda was one of the first graduates in Physiotherapy at the University of the Western Cape’s Faculty of Community and Health Sciences (out of the initial group of 20 or so students, four graduated in that first group). She went on to earn both her Honours and Master’s degrees from Stellenbosch University, and her PhD from UWC, while also working for the University as a clinical supervisor and lecturer, then Head of Department of Physiotherapy, Deputy Dean: Teaching and Learning at CHS, and ultimately the Dean. Her research expertise is in neuroscience and the rehabilitation of adults with neurological conditions - in particular, the reintegration of individuals who have had strokes back into their homes and communities. 


As dean, she has overseen the expansion of the CHS Faculty into Bellville CBD, the increasing integration of UWC staff and students into communities, and the preparation of graduates ready to tackle a global pandemic.

“Developing capacity and intellectual agility has been key to managing all the changes that were brought on by the pandemic and the lockdown. As we were ‘all in it together’, it was amazing to witness the amount of collaboration and sharing that happened both internally, as well as externally,” she said. “As Dean of the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences of UWC, I know first-hand how important community is to us - our mission being to transform and sustain the health and wellbeing of communities. It’s so important, in fact, that unlike most other health sciences faculties, we put community right up there in our name. And that sense of community has become more important than ever.”

These are the leaders who will help UWC find a way to continue to grow, from hope to action - and to make a difference in the world.

“I have no doubt that our new deans will find a way to make their mark,” said Prof Pretorius. “But they won’t do it alone. We’re all in this together, and together, we will get through these tough times, build on our past successes and continue to be a force for positive change. Please join me in congratulating our academics on their appointment.”