On Saturday, 25 February 2023, UNIVEN Alumni from the Lowveld region of Mpumalanga gathered in large numbers at The Capital Mbombela Hotel in Nelspruit for the launch of UNIVEN Mpumalanga Alumni Chapter. It was a memorable occasion characterised by the singing of struggle songs in fond memories of their student days on campus. The theme that ran throughout the launch was about building relationships with stakeholders to seize fundraising, study and job opportunities.
The launch, which the President of Convocation, Mr Sylvester Motadi officiated, was graced by the presence of the University’s high-ranking officials led by the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni. The President of the Convocation, Mr Motadi, who was facilitating the programme, reminded the audience that the mandate of the Convocation is to deepen relationships between the University and its alumni and unite all alumni of the University Venda. He pointed out that “gradually, we are growing as alumni and as such, some of our alumni are starting to give back to our University. He appealed to those who are not yet employed to be patient and to have hope that things would work out in the end.
“We come from different cultural backgrounds as residents of the Lowveld region. We should unite and become a single force as UNIVEN graduates to help our alma mater to grow for the benefit of others. The greatest challenge facing us that should be tackled head-on is unemployment among graduates. The degree certificates we obtained from UNIVEN have opened doors for us, and we should open doors for others, especially unemployed graduates. The structure we are launching today will survive its constitutional mandate to see through all these challenges,” said Adv. Sipho Mashele during his opening and welcome address.
Ms Shonisani Masutha gave a brief presentation on the Statement of the Executive Committee of Convocation. She thanked the alumni who were in attendance despite the forecast of Cyclone Freddy and braced for rainy weather conditions of the day. Ms Masutha urged those who would stand for leadership positions to position the University for impact and relevance. She encouraged alumni to give back to UNIVEN in monetary terms or in kind as a way of helping disadvantaged students to access higher education. She informed the audience that they have developed a programme #40monthsR40 campaign as a way of assisting needy students. She advised alumni who were to be elected to lead the Mpumalanga Lowveld Alumni Chapter that they have a task to make sure that the University’s vision, mission, and values are realised. Finally, she commended the coordinators, who were mainly females for ensuring that the event became a reality.
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Bernard Nthambeleni, shared the State of the Campus address. He started his speech by remarking that he was pleased to be part of the gathering to witness the birth of UNIVEN Mpumalanga Lowveld Alumni Chapter and that he was encouraged to see SwissFranc Conference Room full to the rafters.
Dr Nthambeleni informed alumni that the University they left many years ago is now a different University and is developing and growing in shape, character and size.
He informed alumni that UNIVEN is one of the six comprehensive universities in the country, which is continuing on a trajectory to deliver the highest quality teaching, research and community engagement for the citizens of the Republic of South Africa and even abroad.
Regarding academic projects, Dr Nthambeleni reported that in the current 2023-2025 enrolment plan, the total student headcount for undergraduate and postgraduate students for 2023 is expected to be 15 500. “45% of our student enrolment is in the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Agriculture and Health Sciences. He highlighted that UNIVEN top the list amongst the comprehensive universities in South Africa with the highest enrolment numbers in science and mathematics. “35% of our students are enrolled in the Faculty of Humanities, Social Sciences and Education and 20% are enrolled in the Faculty of Management, Commerce and Law”.
“Our ministerial target for academic staff with PhDs in 2022 was 40% and currently, 44% of our academic staff have PhDs”. He reported that UNIVEN academic staff with PhD qualifications of 44% is above the national average of 38% in the higher education sector. With the appointment of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Postgraduate Studies, we are exploring ways to provide targeted academic capacity development through the National Research Foundation, Thuthuka Rating track to assist academic staff with PhDs to move from emerging researchers to established researchers.
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal indicated that the number of our National Research Foundation (NRF) rated researchers continues to grow. He said these rated researchers contribute significantly to the research outputs of the University. He asserted that UNIVEN continues to provide the best tertiary education and produce quality graduates capable of competing locally and internationally with their peers.
On accreditation of qualifications, he stated that after a lengthy review process by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants our Postgraduate Diploma in Accounting/CTA had received full accreditation by SAICA and Council on Higher Education and the programme will be offered in 2024. He reported that the LLB programme received its Council on Higher Education accreditation.
Dr Nthambeleni continued to report about the establishment of Law School at the University of Venda. “Our law graduates no longer have to relocate to Polokwane or Pretoria and Johannesburg to do their articles to qualify as lawyers or attorneys,” he said.
He informed the audience that the University introduced Performance Management System and developed an Automated Performance Management process which has been rolled out to the entire University. All employees, from the gardener to the vice chancellor, are subjected to performance management with a view to improving individual and overall institutional performance. As he continued, he indicated that the process to establish a TB Research Unit at the University of Venda working with Tshilidzini Hospital is in the pipeline.
The Vice-Chancellor and Principal went on to inform alumni that UNIVEN opened Business Advisory Centre in Makhado Crossing Mall in Limpopo Province after a successful discussion with Dr Mike Nkuna of Masingita Group of Companies. Again in 2022, the University acquired a piece of land in Makhado Local Municipality, and they are moving with plans to establish a UNIVEN satellite campus in Makhado, Louis Trichardt.
The University is in its third year of implementing the strategic plan 2025 and a new service delivery model intended to position UNIVEN for impact and relevance.
Four strategic thrusts underpin the University’s five-year strategy: Student Centeredness and Engaged Scholarship; Entrepreneurial University; Governance for Outstanding Scholarship, and Linkages, Partnerships, and Internationalisation.
“We are working hard to safeguard the UNIVEN’s brand image. People should feel proud to be associated with our University based on the quality of our offerings, the quality of our students, our research, and community engagement output.”
In conclusion, Dr Nthambeleni appreciated the efforts of the Executive Committee of Convocation and assured them of his management support in their plans. He finally reported that Motsepe Foundation has given the University of Venda R1.3 million rand to assist missing middle students. He made a call to alumni to raise funds for struggling students as Motsepe Foundation promised that for each million rand raised, they would match it.
In his inaugural speech, the newly elected chairperson of Mpumalanga Lowveld Alumni Chapter, Attorney of the High Court, Mr Katekani Lamula mentioned that his team will continue to support UNIVEN as an institution that is always open to new ideas. Regarding the electricity crisis, Mr Lamula said that alumni chapters should assist the University by addressing some of the challenges that the University is faced with and provide solutions.
In the highly contested elections, which were conducted by the Director of Legal Services, Adv. Eric Nemukula, nine officials were elected. Mr Katekani Lamula was elected Chairperson, Mrs Maria Shabangu as the Deputy Chairperson, Miss Neliswa Motha as Secretary, Ms Vukosi Nicol Ngobeni as Deputy Secretary and Adv. Zanele Maake as the Treasurer. The portfolio holders are Ms Lindokuhle Shongwe (Research and Innovation), Mr Sandile Bob Masango (Membership and Recruitment), Mr Aubrey Mashile (Special Projects and Community Outreach) and Mr Nkosinathi Bhila (Events and Marketing).
Department of Marketing, Branding & Communication
University of Venda
Tel: (015) 962 8525 /8710
Date: 28 February 2023