Workers’ Day signifies the crucial role played by employees
International Workers’ Day is promoted by the International Labour Movement as a day to celebrate the contributions and achievements of workers across the world. In South Africa, 1 May 2021 will mark 27 years since Workers’ Day was officially recognised and observed. It is also a day on which we acknowledge the role that the progressive labour movement and workers in general continue to play in our country.
This year, the North-West University (NWU) is celebrating all its employees for the resilience they have shown during this time of immense difficulties and uncertainty. Over the past year, you have all pulled out all the stops and adjusted to a new way of working and living.
Your resilience and hard work have, among other milestones, earned us a top spot in the latest rankings by the Center for World University Rankings (CWUR), which ranks the NWU in the top 4,7% of universities in the 2021/2022 edition of its Global 2000 list. This latest CWUR ranking positions the NWU ninth in Africa and seventh in South Africa. This magnificent achievement would not have been possible if it had not been for your hard work and dedication. You continue to make a very important contribution towards the success of the NWU. On behalf of management I would like to reiterate that we are working hard to create a culture that is characterised by transparency, respect, trust and engagement. This is crucial for our success and sustainability as a public higher-education institution.
Clearly, today’s workers/employees are faced with a new set of challenges. The pandemic and lockdown have emphasised the importance of taking care of our mental and emotional health. We understand that for employees to perform at their absolute best, they must be in a good space mentally and emotionally. Consequently, we will continue with initiatives aimed at creating a working environment that will respond effectively to the needs of our employees. We will also continue with the implementation of interventions that have been introduced in the course of the pandemic to support staff in dealing with mental health and associated illnesses.
I urge all staff to do everything possible to ensure that their mental health is not compromised as we continue to work differently and seek to find a healthy work-life balance. Those who are experiencing difficulties can contact the People and Culture: Wellness department for support and assistance.
As we commemorate Workers’ Day on 1 May, let us also take a moment to think about the colleagues who have lost their lives due to Covid-19 and other causes. Let us continue to offer support of whatever kind to their families and friends. Our thoughts must also go to the millions of people, in South Africa and globally, who have lost their jobs during the pandemic.
We salute all our employees for their continued resilience and determination to make the NWU a welcoming home for everyone. A lot remains to be done. So, as former President Mandela said, “whether you change the linen or stitch up wounds, cook the food or dispense the medicines, it is in your hands to help build a public service worthy of all those who gave their lives for the dream of democracy.” Let us continue to work together towards a better South Africa and Africa and also a better world, and – most particularly – towards the realisation of our dream to be an internationally recognised university in Africa, distinguished for engaged scholarship, social responsiveness and an ethic of care.
I wish you a memorable Workers’ Day.
Prof Dan Kgwadi
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Let us celebrate and cherish our freedoms!
As we celebrate Freedom Day on 27 April, we are again reminded of the countless sacrifices and the tireless commitment of those who fought for our freedom. Freedom Day reminds us to appreciate the value of freedom, especially considering the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to disorganise our lives and threaten the day-to-day freedoms that some of us still take for granted.
On 27 April, it will have been 27 years since the first democratic elections in South Africa put the country on the road to political freedom. Although South Africa has come a long way since then, we are still faced with many obstacles to attain true social and economic justice for the majority of South Africans.
The number 27 is also significant because it reminds us of the 27 years that former President Nelson Mandela and many others sacrificed in jail during the fight for freedom. President Mandela’s words still ring as powerful today as when he first remarked that “for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”.
It is with this respect for our own freedom and the freedom of others that the North-West University stays firmly committed to enabling and achieving equity and redress, and to empowering and uplifting South Africans through our academic programmes and other initiatives targeting communities. Guided by our ethic of care, we recommit ourselves to collaborate even more with our stakeholders in many sectors of society to offer teaching-learning and research programmes that uplift individuals and communities, and to empower them to enjoy their freedoms.
We know it is not easy, but we must continue to engage robustly about the prevailing challenges in our country and collectively work towards a future for which many men and women in our country sacrificed their lives. On this Freedom Day, let us remember that some of our fellow South Africans of different races and backgrounds lost their lives in advocating for a country in which citizens can hold different views, engage in robust debate, and at the same time respect the rights of those who are different from them in many ways. We must cherish these fellow South Africans and exercise our democratic rights respectfully.
If there is one thing that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us so far it is that freedom is precious and can easily be restricted. Therefore we should cherish and enjoy our freedom every day while remaining conscious of the fact that the South African Constitution is the custodian and protector of the freedoms of all South Africans.
I urge all of us, members of the NWU community, to enjoy Freedom Day on 27 April, and to take a moment to reflect and recommit ourselves towards a full realisation of human rights and social justice in our country.
North-West University students expelled
4 April 2021
Three North-West University (NWU) students have been expelled from the university during the past two weeks because of their illegal actions in two separate incidents recently.
Commemoration of Human Rights day
21 March 2021
South Africa is 27 years into its democracy, and on this Human Rights Day which we celebrate on 21 March, we continue to be reminded of how far we have come as a country.
Human Rights Day memorialises the 69 people killed and 180 injured during the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, which followed a march by ordinary people demonstrating against unjust pass laws, which infringed on their right to freedom of movement.
Fifty-one years after this tragedy, all South African citizens and residents of this beautiful country have equal human rights and responsibilities.
In line with Human Rights Day, the NWU is striving towards a year of solidarity and hope.
We envisage the NWU as an inclusive institution, which celebrates and welcomes staff and students from different cultural backgrounds and all walks of life.
When it comes to the dignity, freedom and rights of staff and students, we remain dedicated to the cause hence we have put policies in place to ensure that everyone can responsibly express who they are freely and fully participate in teaching, learning, work and social activities.
On this Human Rights Day, take a moment to consider how you can continue to show an ethic of care and uphold the human rights of all.
As the impact of Covid-19 continues to be felt across the globe, let us remember that we have rights, and with those rights come responsibilities; not only towards ourselves and our loved ones, but to all fellow men and women.
I urge all of you to comply with the university protocols aimed at curbing the spread of the virus as we strive for a year of harmony and hope together.
Prof. Dan Kgwadi
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Developments at our Mahikeng Campus
20 March 2021
Dear NWU Mahikeng Campus staff member and student
Today, I write to you to express my deep sadness and frustration in the way some of our Mahikeng Campus students conduct themselves, especially when there are calls for support and solidarity on matters at national level.
I have emphasised countless times that we, the North-West University, support and appreciate all initiatives aimed at ensuring students’ access and success in our country’s higher education sector. All our students at the three campuses and those on distance learning have a right to support the national calls for financial and other assistance for academically deserving students. Students are also free to raise issues with management through the university’s students’ structures and recognised channels.
There is a developing trend in which our Mahikeng Campus is constantly engulfed in violence, vandalism, and destruction of property as well as intimidation of stakeholders.
There does not seem to be any appreciation of the resources that we have been working hard to build to ensure equity of resources and student experiences across the three campuses. This week, less than 100 students, including non-students with absolutely no interest in the success of the university nor the best interests of our students, caused damage to university property, and their actions led to the closure of the Mahikeng Campus. Staff could not gain access to the campus and could therefore not assist students with critical services, including financial clearances and registration. Our infrastructure development projects are also negatively affected since contractors cannot access the campus.
This year’s protest action is taking place in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic which continues to claim lives. We have spent millions to make our campuses Covid-19 regulations compliant, and to ensure that our students can return to campuses. We have done this because we value the health and safety of staff and students, and we want to create an environment that enables you to succeed. Whilst many of our staff and students have engaged in activities that positively reflect the solidarity of the NWU in fighting the pandemic, the current behaviour negates all our good intentions. These gatherings are super-spreader events as there is no adherence to the wearing of masks and social distancing. The university regrets the irresponsible actions currently displayed at our Mahikeng Campus.
We have spent a significant amount of funds to invest in security at the Mahikeng Campus to ensure the safety of our students. We are repeatedly compelled to use the already limited university funds to respond to the vandalism and destruction of university property during violent protests. We must appreciate that these are taxpayers’ funds which could be used for other services such as infrastructure development and funding for post-graduate students.
Ironically the same people who are destroying property are the ones who purport to be fighting for poor students. I need to make it abundantly clear that the continued vandalism and destruction of property will not solve our socio-economic problems. In fact, these actions will result in even more of our students unable to succeed academically.
Management is involved in discussions with the minister, USAF and NSFAS to consider sustainable solutions for this funding crisis. All of us must be involved in a constructive debate regarding long-term sustainable solutions for higher education funding in our country. This is critical for the development and growth of our beloved country. Short-termism will only deepen the funding crisis and derail future students’ access and success.
We are working hard to raise funds and promote the university to our partners in the public and private sectors. Our consistent message to these partners and industry role-players is that the NWU is a unitary institution with each executive dean responsible for their faculty’s experiences across the three campuses. Therefore, there is no need to consider the campus at which the students are based when recruiting for employment and business opportunities because the students should have the same academic experience and knowledge.
The incidents that happened during this week and in the past are causing damage to this message and make it difficult for us to promote the university to external stakeholders. We have held many engagements with companies who have the perception that students from the Mahikeng Campus are irresponsible and cannot adapt to their companies’ work ethic and discipline due to the instability and vandalism at the campus. We were beginning to change that perception and some of these companies that were conducting career fairs at the Potchefstroom and Vanderbijlpark campuses only had made commitments to recruit students from the Mahikeng Campus. These recent developments have taken us back and will sadly affect all our graduates especially from our Mahikeng Campus
I know there are students at the Mahikeng Campus, who, despite the challenges they face, are dedicated to their studies, and would want to make a success of their future. Of the more than 50 thousand NWU students, there are 13 000 students at our Mahikeng Campus, and it is regrettable that their future seems to be in the hands of the very few students who have short-term interests. This is indeed very sad and painful.
In terms of the issues that have been raised by the Student Campus Council (SCC) during this registration period, management can confirm as follows:
- Registration period has been extended until 26 March 2021;
- We have taken a risk of using the university’s limited cash reserves, approximately R250 million, to cover for NSFAS allowances;
- More than 94% of our senior students have been fully registered;
- More than 72% of first-year students are fully registered. The situation at the Mahikeng Campus is contributing negatively towards the registration process;
- All registered students who have indicated that they wish to return to campus and/or residences and/or private accommodation providers can do so. This will only apply when the campus reopens;
- Post graduate students will no longer be funded by NSFAS. The university is still awaiting the DHET/NSFAS guidelines for clarity. High performing students in PGCE and LLB have been identified and are being offered full bursaries by the NWU;
- All final-year students who qualify for merit bursaries in 2021 and have outstanding debt will be allowed to register;
- There is no way that the North-West University can afford to cancel the students’ outstanding debt. Should we do that, we will need to get significant funding from government and other sources or begin to prepare for a crisis that may result in closing some of our schools and services;
- The national regulations and NWU protocols aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 remain in place; thus, the restrictions on certain issues including visits in residences are not permitted at this stage;
- Conditionally registered students have been allowed to fully participate in the online academic programme, and
- All our university websites and eFundi sites have been zero-rated to enable access for students.
The Mahikeng Campus remains closed until the situation improves and staff can safely access the campus to perform their duties. We expect the academic programme to continue online, hence we need the situation to normalise so that the students without connectivity at their home(s) can return to campus and participate in the online teaching-learning mode.
This painful and regrettable trend must stop. Discussions between management and the student leaders are continuing and I am hopeful that sanity will prevail, and the campus can open next week. It is critical that the Mahikeng Campus students must finalise their registration and begin with the academic programme.
Prof. Dan Kgwadi
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Continued blockade of the Mahikeng Campus
18 March 2021
The NWU Management had hoped that the situation at the Mahikeng Campus would have improved by now. Regrettably, it appears that some members of the Student Campus Council (SCC) are determined to continue with the blockade of entrances into campus and thus ensuring that the campus does not function since staff cannot access the campus. This is affecting the registration process and other services that registered students deserve.
On 16 March, the NWU management decided to close the campus until further notice, because the safety of staff and students cannot be guaranteed under the current situation. In addition, there is lack of adherence to national Covid-19 regulations as well as the NWU protocols.
The academic activities have begun in earnest and our Mahikeng Campus students may have to participate in these activities online. You are encouraged to liaise with your faculty to make the necessary arrangements.
The campus remains closed and students who can leave the campus are encouraged to do so.
Herewith the numbers for student requests related to data, permission letters and other related queries:
Prof Dan Kgwadi
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
Current status of protest actions at the North-West University’s Mahikeng Campus
17 March 2021
Since Monday, 15 March 2021, students, and members of the public have been protesting outside the main entrance to the Mahikeng Campus in solidarity with the call for a national shutdown of all public universities. Staff are still unable to access the campus to render services to deserving students.
On 16 March, the NWU Management decided to close the campus until further notice, because the safety of staff and students cannot be guaranteed under the current situation. In addition, there is lack of adherence to national Covid-19 regulations as well as the NWU protocols.
Various roads leading to the campus have been barricaded and tyres burnt since Monday, 15 March. During the evening of 16 March, protesters tried to force their way into the campus by breaking the lock of the main gate. They were however prevented from entering the campus. Later in the evening, protesters also threw a petrol bomb at the guard house. Fortunately, the device did not explode but windows of the guard house were broken. The CCTV cameras covering the area were also tampered with.
There was also an incident where students are alleged to have assaulted an individual who was allegedly responsible for throwing the petrol bomb and damaging the CCTV cameras.
There is reasonable suspicion that not all the protesters are students. As a result, CCTV footage will be used for both criminal and/or student disciplinary cases. Cases of assault and malicious damage to property have also been registered with the Mmabatho Police Station.
The NWU management strongly condemns the recent spate of violence and damage to university property. We will need to use the already limited funds to fix the damaged property. We urge students to respect the university property and adhere to the necessary regulations and protocols. We remain committed to continue engagements with student leaders to ensure that all outstanding issues especially those within the control of the university can be addressed. Although we would like all matters including lack of funds to be addressed as a matter of urgency, we cannot, regrettably, resolve the issues that are beyond our mandate.
We reiterate that we cannot guarantee the health and safety of students and staff amid this violence and damage to property; thus, students are requested to vacate the campus. We have received numerous requests from students to allow them to stay on campus due to travel and other challenges. These students should make the necessary arrangements with their respective Student Life Residence offices.
Staff should continue to work from home until further notice - an obvious setback for the university as a whole and especially to the students who are in dire need of assistance to clear their financial issues and register for the 2021 academic year. However, we must do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of the NWU community particularly students and staff.
Prof Dan Kgwadi
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
To students and staff of the NWU Mahikeng Campus
16 March 2021
Dear students and staff of the NWU Mahikeng Campus
Due to the continued violations of Covid-19 regulations and protocols, as well as the inability of staff to access campus to render the necessary services to deserving students, the university management has taken a painful decision to close the Mahikeng Campus with immediate effect until further notice.
As communicated yesterday, registration period for all students has been extended until 26 March 2021.
This is obviously a setback for the university as a whole and especially to the students who are in dire need of assistance to clear their financial issues and register for the 2021 academic year. However, we must do everything possible to ensure the health and safety of the NWU community.
Students are requested to vacate the campus by 14:00 tomorrow, Wednesday, 17 March 2021, as the NWU cannot guarantee their safety under these volatile conditions, where campus security is severely compromised.
Staff are advised to liaise with their managers and make the necessary arrangements to work from home until further notice.
Please keep safe.
Prof Dan Kgwadi
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
A year of continued solidarity and hope
3 February 2021
I trust that you are well. Welcome to the 2021 academic year. I hope you are reinvigorated and ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities of this academic year. Regrettably, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and the lockdown, which will undoubtedly continue to affect our operations negatively. We remain a contact university and would like to see a full return to our campuses – offices and classrooms – as soon as the situation allows. We are going to strive to continue to provide the differentiated student value proposition and quality student experience for which the North-West University (NWU) is renowned.
In the meantime, the situation remains devastating and full of challenges and unpredictability. In my communication of 28 January 2021, I announced that we had lost two members of the NWU family to Covid-19. Our cumulative figures of members of the NWU family who have either tested positive or have been exposed to Covid-19 are growing daily. Let us continue to comply with the necessary regulations and protocols.
We will continue with the delivery of our programmes in the limited-contact teaching-learning modality for Semester 1 as per my communication of 26 January 2021: Amendment of teaching-learning for the first semester 2021. Let us use the experiences and lessons of 2020 regarding online teaching-learning to achieve a successful 2021 academic year.
Council approved the NWU Teaching-Learning Strategy at the end of 2020. To this end, the revision of the Teaching, Learning and Assessment Rules, and the faculties’ teaching-learning plans will take place during 2021. I wish all involved in the revision a smooth and successful process. This is a crucial initiative for our academic project.
Regarding research and innovation it is encouraging that despite Covid-19 challenges, the NWU publication submissions for 2020 were almost the same as the total output of 2019. This may improve when more publications are submitted during February 2021, resulting in a better performance for 2020 compared to 2019. I want to thank staff and students for this achievement. Let us make 2021 even better. I know it is not going to be easy, but I urge all our postgraduate students and staff to find inventive ways to continue with their research and innovation.
The finalisation and implementation of our digital business strategy (DBS) should gain momentum during this academic year. It is envisioned that the full roll-out of the DBS will enable us to enhance the delivery of our programmes and services, including those mentioned above.
The higher-education sector is experiencing difficulties that are affecting both staff and students. We are working with various stakeholders in the sector, including the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), to find sustainable solutions to problems posed by the pandemic.
We note the government’s pronouncement regarding the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out plans and we will continue to liaise with the relevant stakeholders and update our staff and students accordingly.
I look forward to welcoming our students, including first-year students. Please note the registration dates.
Some of our staff and students are returning to campuses to continue with their work and studies. I urge all those returning to campuses to comply with the university protocols aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. The university will continue to operate at the highest possible level of vigilance and care to ensure the health and safety of our staff and students.
I take this opportunity to thank our key stakeholders – including the Council, the donor community, our alumni and the broader NWU family – for the collaboration and support in various areas of our university.
Let us continue to work towards the realisation of our dream to be an internationally recognised university in Africa, distinguished for engaged scholarship, social responsiveness and an ethic of care. Working together, especially during these challenging times, we can ensure that the NWU remains one of the leading universities in our country and on our continent.
I look forward to engaging with you further during this academic year.
Please take care.