Transformation of South African universities too slow – Nzimande

16th January 2015 By: Megan van Wyngaardt - Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

Transformation of South African universities too slow – Nzimande

Minister of Higher Education and Training Blade Nzimande
Photo by: Duane Daws

The pace of transformation in universities in South Africa is too slow, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said on Friday, focusing in particular on the University of Stellenbosch, the North West University and the University of Pretoria.

Speaking at the Education Alliance meeting at the University of Johannesburg, Nzimande expressed his unhappiness with the level of transformation at these institutions with “mainly white” faculties and that a plan had to be put in place to facilitate faster transformation.

The recently tabled Staffing South Africa’s Universities Framework was expected to aid this transformation. When fully implemented, it would tackle the staffing challenges at universities in South Africa, including those related to the transformation of the staff profile.

Pending ministerial approval, the first phase of the framework was planned for implementation this year and would involve the recruitment and placement of between 140 and 200 new academics at universities across the country.

Further, Nzimande noted that the proper training of lecturers also remained a challenge in the higher education sector.

However, he pointed out that the Department of Higher Education and Training would partner with faculties of education to make this happen. “We would like to see post-school education and training become a strong focus for faculties of education. The ability of education faculties to develop teachers for this sector and conduct research leading to knowledge development for this sector must be substantially increased.”

Moreover, Nzimande noted that technical and vocational education and training (TVET) college lecturer education and development had not received enough attention. “While universities have focused some attention on these sectors, it has largely been because of the efforts of a few passionate individuals rather than a systemic and institutionalised initiative, and the work has largely been located in centres or units at the periphery of education faculties.”

He emphasised that universities had to play “a much stronger role” in the development of teachers for the post-school education and training college sector, and to conduct research and knowledge development for these sectors. “This is vital, given the need to substantially grow these sectors and enable wider and more appropriate education opportunities in the country.”

The department recently produced a series of teacher education qualification policies focused on school teachers, TVET lecturers and community education and training centre lecturers and educators.

“These new policies are meant to contribute to the quality imperative through setting minimum standards for teacher education qualifications and through their foregrounding of teacher knowledge and practice,” Nzimande pointed out.

Further, increased attention would be paid to issues of shape and substance in teacher education through a new five-year Teaching and Learning Development Capacity Improvement Programme.

This programme, in partnership with the European Union, would enable significant resources to be directed towards strengthening the institutional capability of universities for early childhood development educator development, primary school teacher education, development of specialist teachers for learners with special needs; TVET college lecturer education, community college lecturer education, university teaching and conducting of research in education.