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UWC honours long service

UWC honours long service

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) hosted a long-service awards ceremony in early December to honour staff who have dedicated their many years of service to the University.

Those who were recognised were academics and support staff members who have completed 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35,  and 40 years of service working for UWC. Among them was Professor Charlene Africa, who has spent 35 years on campus. Some of her  duties include lecturing third-year BSc and Dentistry students, supervising Honours, Masters and Doctoral research students, and serving on several faculty and university committees.

What kept her  at UWC for such a long time?

“I moved around for many years, working in different environments (industry, private pathology, hospitals, and research institutions) but I always felt restless, like it’s not what I really wanted,” she says. “Then I came to UWC and I finally found my home.  I had so much to give (and still have) and this is where I wanted to give it.  When I returned from London after studying for my PhD, I was offered positions at other universities who wanted to meet their EE targets but I turned them down because I felt that this is where I was needed and this is where I wanted to leave my mark.”

Prof Africa believes that she has grown together with the University and that has created a bond which she is reluctant to break. “Being here has provided me with opportunities to develop in so many different ways, including teaching and learning, research and leadership. Many times I meet students who have passed through my hands many years before, who thank me for the impact I have made on their lives and whose careers I have unknowingly helped to shape, and that is what makes it all worthwhile. Those are my trophies.”

Prof Africa sometimes can’t believe the changes she has witnessed at UWC over the years. “When I first started, I worked in the pre-clinical dentistry quadrangle which consisted of the departments of medical microbiology, anatomy and physiology, along with the dentistry library. Now we have this magnificent Life Sciences Building”.

She remembers the tough times when secretaries used typewriters with carbon paper inserted between the sheets when more than one copy was required and when all communication was via snail mail in brown envelopes. “Everything was in Afrikaans. Underqualified white academics were appointed to senior positions, black academics (predominantly coloured at the time) occupied junior positions.”

But change gradually occurred. “Suddenly buildings started springing up like mushrooms, the staff population diversified, and later the student population as well. We are now home to world-class academics who have contributed greatly to our recognition as one of the best universities on the continent. The campus looks great with all the modern buildings and amenities.”

Another stalwart recognised at the event was Willem Fransman Jr, an Assistant Technical Official at the Radiology department at the Faculty of Dentistry. He became a member of personnel after the University of the Western Cape merged with the University of Stellenbosch’s (US) Dental faculty in 2004. He is also a storyteller, playwright, published actor, performance poet and columnist as a freelancer for several newspapers. In October 2016 the WP Athletics Association awarded him with honorary colours in Race Walking.