The event was attended by distinguished guests, including Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Archbishop of Cape Town, Hon. Mr Bonakele Majuba, MEC for Education in the Province of Mpumalanga, businesses, organizations, and local and international academics, who also joined virtually.
Opening the event, UMP Chancellor Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya, highlighted that the establishment of the University of Mpumalanga was a result of the shared commitment of a democratic nation to address past inequalities and provide affordable, accessible, and achievable higher education to all South Africans.
“Education is a necessary tool to reshape and develop our communities, and institutions of higher learning must respond to the living conditions and needs of their communities to improve socio-economic circumstances and contribute meaningfully to the country’s economic growth." Justice Maya added that UMP has firmly positioned itself among its peers as a powerful institution that responds to socioeconomic challenges.
King Makhosoke II Mabhena congratulated UMP under the leadership of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Mayekiso.
“Milestones such as this anniversary do not only afford us an opportunity to look back in reflection, but they also encourage us to look ahead and plan for a better future. The world is constantly evolving, and many challenges and opportunities lie ahead. This is a moment for us all to reaffirm our pledge to ensure the success of this university.
It is a time to drive the message harder to our youth, in this age of deeply entrenched corruption and mindless materialism and consumerism, in which many people with no discernible skills of any kind and who have little or no education at all, own all the shiny trappings which are attractive to the young and leads them to question why they should toil in school if it's possible to get money and all these nice things without an education and any sense of integrity, that an education remains a critical tool for true self-advancement and meaningful human development and to stay in school.”
University of Mpumalanga Vice-Chancellor Professor Thoko Mayekiso shared insights from UMP’s pioneering journey, Luhambo Lwemhlahlandlela, and spoke about taking up the role as the first Vice-Chancellor.
“The Chinese proverb: 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step' is most appropriate to capture the resilience that would be required to establish a new institution. That single step starts with a vision. I would, therefore, take this opportunity to pay homage and a deep sense of gratitude to the visionaries who took that very step such as Dr Enos Mabuza; Dr William Ndlala; Prof David Mabunda; Prof Selby Ripinga; Prof J P Shongwe; Mr DD Mabuza; Dr Matthew Phosa; Mr Irvin Phenyane, and many others. We are also grateful to Prof Andy Mogotlane, the Head of the Strategic Team, who contributed to the noble efforts to set up the University.
That vision finds expression in the UMP envisioning statement, 'In a region thirsty for learning, UMP assumes a leadership role in providing the province and the country with academic avenues for advancement. The University endows its presence with the promise and potential of the region to confirm its rightful place in the knowledge economy of our country and continent.'"
UMP Chancellor Deputy Chief Justice Mandisa Maya.
Professor Mayekiso further shared her gratitude to the Council, the first Chair of Council, Prof David Mabunda, Minister for Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Dr Blade Nzimande, and the Department of Higher Education and Training for constant support. "We are also grateful for the goodwill from the Province of Mpumalanga."
"Our challenge was to give the country a sense of what a post-apartheid institution would look like. We are lucky that we are not burdened by the legacy of apartheid. Creating a new society would require new institutions that would inculcate different habits and a new consciousness. We dare not fail.”
She explained the huge responsibility of pioneering a newly established university and mentioned that excellence was the lifeblood of the institution. Trailblazing, pathfinding, and pathbreaking became part of their being.
“The unique attributes of pioneers: resilience, vision, grit, and determination, would form a huge part of our approach. I referred to pioneering as a perplexing paradox in my inaugural address – it was already evident to me that there are no margins for error- we needed to get it right – the nation, the province, and the surrounding communities invested their hopes in us and, therefore, it was crucial that we put our best foot forward and draw deep from the art of possibility when our own morale sagged.
We had to have a high adversity quotient, to remind ourselves why this institution came into being and the immense benefits to the Province of Mpumalanga that would accrue when we succeeded. There was no room for complacency or space to drag our feet. The imperatives of poverty eradication, redress, transformation, and access, informed the material conditions on the ground.”
UMP talent entertained the guests.
Placing great value on partnerships/collaboration/linkages and networks is what drove UMP to achieve its vision of being an engaged University, said Professor Mayekiso.
“Spreading our wings and reaching out, locally, nationally, on the African continent, and globally have been among the efforts we have expended to ensure that UMP grows and has credible partners. Over the 10 years, we have established partnerships with 33 international universities; 11 in Europe; 4 in North America; 2 in Australia; 9 in Asia, and 9 in Africa.
Our students have participated in international forums, where they did us proud, and so has been their participation nationally. They have presented papers at national and international conferences. The road ahead beckons. We will revisit and revise our initial strategies against the backdrop of the lessons learnt along the way. We need to remain forever vigilant to ensure that we do not become oblivious to new opportunities. Agility, flexibility, and openness to embrace change should be what we always strive for."
The day was filled with festivities.
Professor Mayekiso concluded with these words, “For our sake, and for the sake of generations yet unborn, let us join hands, to build a relevant, creative, innovative, and entrepreneurial University, which will serve the needs of this province, those of South Africa, then Africa, and indeed, those of the world generally.”
King Makhosoke II Mabhena of the amaNdebele Nation congratulated the UMP and praised the leadership of Professor Mayekiso for building and leading the University to excellence. He also came bearing gifts, including the AmaNdebele blanket, for the Vice-Chancellor.
Other speakers included former Chancellor of UMP, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy Minister of Higher Education Science and Innovation, Mr Buti Manamela, Prof Sibongile Muthwa, Chairperson of Universities South Africa and Vice-Chancellor of Nelson Mandela University, Dr Phethiwe Matutu, CEO of USAf: Universities South Africa, and Prof Alexander Brem from the Univerity of Stuttgart to mention a few.
Speaking on behalf of Mpumalanga Premier Ms Refilwe Mtsweni-Tsipane, MEC for Education Mr Bonakele Majuba said, “Today we can proudly join the thousands celebrating the 10-year anniversary of providing quality education and training opportunities.”
Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Pictures @ChrisplPhoto