When Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and received his first Honorary Doctorate as a free man from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), he posed a serious question to the audience: what can universities do to improve the lives of the millions of South Africans who were dispossessed by apartheid?
Mandela Day 2018 provided a snapshot of UWC’s attempts to answer that question.
UWC celebrated the occasion by hosting a variety of community initiatives that aimed to give back and demonstrate the kind society Mandela envisaged.
Some of the many initiatives included:
- The Faculty of Law’s Legal Aid Clinic - in partnership with the Department of Justice - offering free legal services to the public from the best attorneys and advocates in the city;
- A Wellness and Health promotion day in Fisantekraal facilitated by the Faculty of Community and Health Sciences;
- The “Hand of Giving” initiative - run by the Economic and Management Sciences Faculty - helping women and children survivors of abuse at the Saartjie Baartman Centre in Heideveld;
- The Faculty of Dentistry running an Oral Health Awareness programme in Khayelitsha and gifting dentures to the elderly;
- The “UWC Fairy Godmother” initiative, spearheaded by The Faculty of the Arts, collecting clothes and toiletries for students and
- The Community Engagement Unit heading an elderly care pack drive.
In addition the university also held a 67 minute event which featured Harvester Primary School, from Mitchells Plain. The school’s drill squad gave a performance in celebration of their 40th anniversary.
“The University of the Western Cape has long been dedicated to the fight against injustice and inequality, and to the ideals and dreams of Nelson Mandela," said Shamiel Jassiem, Acting Director of the Legal Aid Clinic.
When Mandela set about to heal South Africa after apartheid, many of the university’s intellectuals were called upon to serve.
But the spirit spreads beyond campus.
“Most of those who gave back on Mandela Day by giving free legal advice to the public come from private practices and they all volunteered to be here to help, pro bono,” Jassiem said. “And should any legal matter require further assistance, it will still be free of charge.”
Facing Up To A Powerful Legacy: Nelson Mandela And UWC
“It is impossible to stand apart from the society in which you are located, and the idea of a university as the ‘ivory tower’ is outdated,” said UWC’s Vice-Chancellor and Rector, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, noting that UWC had a lot to live up to.
“I would like to believe that our community engagement programmes – stretching across all our seven faculties – respond to Mr Mandela’s challenge in a powerful and real manner - and not just on Mandela Day, but every day, and in every way.”
“And more than that, our sense of community has shifted and expanded over the years, because boundaries are forever changing or disappearing - and UWC is an intellectually engaged institution that is relevant to society.”
In celebration of Nelson Mandela’s centenary, News24 honoured 100 Young Nelson Mandelas, South Africans who embody that legacy - and five of those young South Africans come from the University of the Western Cape.
Want to know more about Nelson Mandela’s legacy, and what that means to the University of the Western Cape? Here’s UWC’s Rector and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tyrone Pretorius, on living up to the challenge posed by a great man.