Decolonisation of education explored by CUT

The newly appointed vice-chancellor of the Central University of Technology, Professor Henk de Jager, says his focus this year will be on creating a safe and stimulating environment for staff and students, in addition to ensuring that the university transforms in various ways.

Newly appointed vice-chancellor (VC) of the Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT), Professor Henk de Jager, says one of the matters he is looking at is the decolonisation of education at the university’s campuses.
Ongoing talks between the university’s management as well as students are underway as the two parties unpack exactly what decolonising education is.
“Just last week, we had workshops with students that were facilitated by the Unit for Transformation and Constructive Engagement (UTCE). In these engagements, we talked about terminologies that affect and are relevant to our debate. We reached a common understanding on what decolonising education for our university means,” Prof. De Jager said.
He added that he also believes this process will be easier to implement in some disciplines more than it will be for others and for those disciplines where decolonisation is harder, it is up to the students and management to give meaning to the discussion.
“I imagine that decolonising education in the humanities department would be easier than it is for the engineering department. In the latter, it would be up to us to consider the built environment within the South African context and consider factors such as the natural environment and develop a definition based on these factors,” he said.
Remarking on the changing times and student markets in the educational sector, De Jager said more than ever, there is also a need to be relevant to students. “Students want different learning experiences and as a result, we are looking into ways of providing them with this through options for online and blended learning. We are working on this as part of our Human Project, which aims to create a safe working and studying space for students and staff members,” he added.
Professor de Jager also explained that UTCE, which was established last month, will give effect to the Human Project as the university embarks on its transformative processes.
Other matters also high on his agenda include the development of infrastructure at the Welkom campus and the prioritisation of staff and student safety, which will allow for the implementation of an integrated security process at both campuses.
The new chosen vice-chancellor will officially begin his duties as of 1 June. He will succeed Thandwa Mthembu, who left CUT in September 2016 after accepting the position of VC and principal of the Durban University of Technology (DUT).
The university’s spokesperson, Dan Maritz, said he is confident that De Jager’s expertise is a positive addition to the university. The chairperson of the university’s council, Mike Mohohlo, also affirmed that De Jager is best suited to lead the university and that he is excited about howDe Jager will contribute to vision 2020, which also seeks to make a positive contribution to the region’s economic development. – Pulane Choane & Katleho Morapela