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I write this issue as a prologue to Africa month. The month of May was declared by the African Union as Africa month to commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963. This historic event underscored the continent’s context and its future as one that will be underpinned by a strong sense of self determination and rigorous efforts to deepen the meaning of independence from all forms of colonial domination expressed almost in all fronts of social history the economy, education, political institutions and belief systems.

  Nelson Mandela University has positioned itself as an African centred university that is at the core of producing knowledge that will facilitate the renewal project of the continent as espoused in Africa’s Agenda 2063. This intellectual endeavour is intended to herald more impetus in the crusade to placing the continent on an irreversible development trajectory and thus enabling it to make its requisite contribution in fashioning a better world; a world with a human face. The task of teaching, research, and learning for the university, therefore, should be embedded in anchoring the intellectual imagination of how Africa month should be observed, understood, and celebrated in the higher education sector in the country, continent and African diaspora. Africa Day should be a day of celebration and reflection. This is what our forebears and our namesake, Nelson Mandela would have wanted us to do; it is the legacy they bequeathed on us.

Why must we use Africa month to celebrate and reflect on progress we are making towards the renaissance of the continent? There are several reasons for this, but we will mention just few:

  • The African Union has adopted Agenda 2063 as Africa’s development programme.  It is thus crucial to reflect on the extent to which we are on course in realising the milestones contained in this development programme.
  • The African youth has developed the African Youth Charter. How far have we come in implementing the ideals contained in the Charter?
  • Our youth, and particularly our students, have called for the decolonisation and Africanisation of the academy.  Has this happened? If not, why not and if yes, what are the outcomes?
  • What has been and what should be the role of African intellectuals and intelligentsia in the renewal project of the continent?
  • How far have we come in moulding a leadership that is committed to and capable of imagining and driving Africa’s development programme?

We will dedicate the next four issues for May to deeply reflecting on these questions.  We will therefore pause and ask ourselves difficult questions and ask ourselves whether the state of the continent is not reflective and a manifest of A Tale of Two Cities as written by Charles Dickens? Can we therefore say about our continent as Charles Dickens observes,  “ It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had ev­erything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present peri­od, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only” ( 1859;3).

I enjoin our student body to take advantage of this month and scholarly observe it as a space that will position their respective fields of study to the service of Africa’s humanity. After all, our pursuit for knowledge should not be a hobby nor an end to itself, rather we should treat higher education as a public good that is inherently in the hands of our society which we as individuals have been privileged to carry through to facilitate a real emancipation of the people’s aspirations through authentic and quality scholarship.

I invite the entire student body and my colleagues to sharpen our attention in making this month a space for deep reflection on Mandela University’s priorities and contribution to the ideals of the renewal of Africa and how these are embedded in the academy, the service ethos and our institutional culture.

Posted on 26 April 2019 15:06:29

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This platform serves as a reflective, discursive and connecting space between myself and the entire student community of our beloved university. Through this platform, we converse with our students and broader stakeholders on all matters of student life, wellbeing and development at Mandela University.

Dr Bernard Sebake, Acting Dean of Students