for tomorrow

George Campus

Christo Fabricius, Principal of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Campus in George.

Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.- Kofi Annan

“To achieve all of these goals, we must support our education system so that we start to address the scarce skills shortages at source…to ensure that we proceed more rapidly on the developmental path of providing a sustainable Home and Future for all in Eden” - Eden District Municipality Integrated Development Plan, 2008.

 

 

Higher Education Institutions in the Eden District have a crucial role to play in the District’s development for the future by building the human capital, and research capacity, to help our communities and decision makers meet the challenges of tomorrow. Institutions such as Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in George are addressing this challenge by investing in infrastructure, developing new programmes and qualifications, and implementing strong quality assurance measures in collaboration with others. We have invested millions into overhauling our teaching and learning, research and facilities because we see Higher Education as an incubator of sustainability in the Eden District.

Education is central to almost all the objectives and goals of the Eden District Municipality’s 2008 Integrated Development Plan.

 

 

The IDP contains numerous references to the need for education through statements such as:

  • “Build a more equal and caring society where poverty has been eradicated”;
  • “Cultural interaction, economic opportunity, public dialogue and debate”;
  • “Enhance human capacity through improvements in the health, education, welfare and safety of individuals and communities”;
  • “Identify and target manufacturing related skills programmes in partnership with the local further education and training (FET) and higher education institutions”;
  • “Recognize the importance of long term development programmes dealing with aspect such as education and training, basic services and housing provision”.

Current levels of education in the Eden District are however insufficient to meet the goals spelt out above. Only 6.5% of the population has a diploma or degree qualification, and only 15% has Standard 10. This is far below international standards and therefore a lot needs to be done to achieve the ambitious target of doubling these percentages. The next few decades will see new changes in technologies, markets, climate, weather patterns and international competition in the Eden District. Our population will have to respond to these changes, and education will be one of the keys to developing our society’ ability to adapt to and cope with change. Educational institutions have important roles to play in putting Eden on the path to sustainable development through training, research, and partnerships with our communities and industries. In 2008, almost 3 200 learners from the Eden District attended universities across the country.

However, of this 3 200 only 420 were registered at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s George Campus, i.e. less than half of the Campus’ total student population of 940. We have therefore taken a critical look at the relevance of our programmes, the support services we provide, our marketing, our facilities and the quality of our teaching and research. We have spoken to leaders in the education sector, looked at international trends, and interviewed students, parents and leadership figures in our community.

This showed that the priority issues for Higher Education in the Eden District are:

  • Continue our needs analysis and market research, initiated in 2009, to determine which programmes and qualifications are most relevant to the needs of the population;
  • Focusing curricula on both ‘hard’ practical skills such as literacy, numeracy and technical knowledge as well as ‘soft’ skills such as values and critical thinking;
  • Providing more hands-on support and mentoring to students with learning difficulties;
  • Creating a 24-hour learning experience, where learning is constantly taking place inside and outside the classroom, e.g. on the sports field, during recreation time, and in the residences;
  • Adapting the way courses are taught by including more practical learning, group work and tutorials where real-life challenges and solutions can be addressed;
  • Developing and improving academic facilities to offer an even better quality learning experience;
  • Strengthening the capacity of lecturers by appointing more of them and developing the qualifications and skills of all staff;
  • Linking research, community engagement and teaching in an on-going cycle;
  • Creating close links with municipalities, schools, other academic institutions, local communities, and local industries, to enable them to support one another;
  • Providing more opportunities for the public to visit our campuses by hosting open days, cultural and sport activities, and inviting the community onto the Campus;
  • Establishing reliable public transport routes between university campuses and town centres;
  • Establishing centres of excellence for research to assist local authorities in addressing the challenges of climate change, health risks, shortages of human capacity and low economic growth.

Universities, FETS, the private sector and municipalities need to work together to create learning opportunities for our community, and also to make higher education more accessible to school leavers. This can be achieved through closer collaboration between schools, colleges and universities, establishing stronger ties between Higher Education and local government, and creating hands-on learning opportunities such as internships and ‘service learning’. Our industries need to come forward with bursaries, but universities and colleges also need to open their gates and doors to scholars and their parents, and ‘demystify’ higher education in the eyes of young learners. We have to start with teacher education, to help our schools produce learners with better numeracy and literacy skills, and more Grade 12s with University exemption.

The needs of learners and society should lie at the heart of any academic enterprise. The graduate of the future will need to have a unique combination of ‘hard’ skills such as reading and writing, synthesizing information, and making sense of vast amounts of literature. S/he should also have soft skills such as respect and humaneness, the ability to work with others, and the ability to communicate in convincing and understandable ways. The graduates of the future should be creators of wealth by establishing own businesses and employing others, as well as problem solvers by addressing the needs of our society and decision makers.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University looks forward to a future in the Eden District where partnerships between industries, local authorities, schools and Higher Education Institutions will produce quality, affordable education to more people.