tackles tough questions

The team from the Quality Enhancement Office made the Indaba 2018 an unforgettable event. They include, at the back, Antoinette Vermeulen, Dr Jannie Jacobz and Johan Erasmus. In front are the facilitators Prof Susan Coetzee van Rooy and Prof Alfred Henrico with Johanna Müller and Tommy Pietersen.


When robust, meaningful debate is needed, memos and email are seldom up to the task. What works is face-to-face discussion and skillful facilitation, and this is why the annual Indaba has worked so well.


The Quality Enhancement Office hosted their seventh successful Indaba in November 2018 in Potchefstroom.


Almost 200 staff members attended, making this the biggest Indaba yet. It gave support and academic staff the opportunity to not only raise concerns, but also suggest possible solutions to the problems and challenges they face daily.


Safe space for difficult conversations


For academic staff, the biggest challenges include pressure to perform, the size of classes, work overload, inconsistency of support staff, and poor management and planning of administrative staff.


Academic staff say they do not always know who to contact when they need assistance, and that some support staff show a lack of responsibility.


The worries of support staff include centralisation, lack of role clarity, work overload, academics who overrule support rules and do not keep to deadlines, and being excluded when important decisions are made. They cited poor understanding, appreciation, support and respect from academics as reasons for discontent.


Mutual concerns included the lack of transparency, bureaucracy, lack of alignment and streamlining, inconsistent or absent information, low morale, unequal remuneration and language issues.


Smoothing the way with real solutions


The positive side is that both academic and support staff believe there are solutions to their challenges.


They suggested single platforms and systems, more attention to career paths, adherence to best practices, better leadership and consistent approaches.


They agree that attitudes need to change and that acknowledgement, respect and trust will go a long way in creating good working relationships.


Familiar faces share their expertise


The Indaba facilitators were two respected NWU academics, Prof Susan Coetzee van Rooy from the research focus area, UPSET, and Prof Alfred Henrico, associate professor in business management and leader of the Business Management programme. They presented three sessions during the highly informative workshop.


Indaba ship to sail into the sunset


Johanna Müller, quality manager for support services, says the Indaba has consistently added value to all staff of the NWU since it was started. “We are looking forward to an even bigger Indaba for this year.”


She says unfortunately it will also be the last Indaba in its current format. Johanna is retiring at the end of 2019 and the quality office has decided to also retire the annual Indaba. “There will be new initiatives next year to fill the gap,” she assures.

Academic and support staff participated in an open discussion about the challenges they experience.