A local animated film depicting the KhoiKhoi story gets recognition in New York.
After an eight year stay in the United States, Professor Hlonipha Mokoena has finally decided to come back to South Africa and has chosen Wits University as her new academic home.
In June, the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER) will welcome South African Professor Hlonipha Mokoena back home.
Mokoena, 38, originally from Soweto but left for KwaZulu-Natal at the age of 12 to go to boarding school, took on her first job as an associate professor in anthropology at the Columbia University in New York a few years after graduating with her PhD from UCT (University of Cape Town), in 2005.
Her move to Wiser comes after three years of planning and describing this new challenge, Mokoena said, “I mustn’t disappoint.”
Mokoena hopes to have the intellectual space and time in which to complete a new book. No stranger to publishing, she wrote her first book titled Magema Fuze: The Making of a Kholwa Intellectual in 2011.
After 8 years of teaching at Columbia University, Mokoena now feels that she can quite soundly critique American notions of “knowledge”, and she describes some of the innovative ways in which students are taught in the US as viable options in South Africa.
“I think in South Africa we tend to argue about eurocentrism as if [it’s] sort of widespread, whereas really the world currently is dominated by the American approach to creating knowledge, including African studies. It’s really American-centric,” Mokoena said.
Mokoena spoke to Wits Vuvuzela about the differences between universities in the States and those here at home, “American private universities [such as] Columbia University are very different from South African universities at the basic level of competition.”
According to Mokoena, there is a high degree of competition for staff and students to get into institutions like Columbia.
To achieve the proposed top 100 ranking in the next 10 years Wits needs to address issues that other more established European and American institutions do not face, according to the university’s Strategic Planning Division (SPD).
On its website, the SPD said the university needs to address these specifically African complications in order to reach the prestigious spot and compared the challenge of maintaining league table rankings to “operating on shifting sand”.
Reaching the top 100 spot will require continuous improvement of the quality of Wits’ teaching and research outputs according to the SPD’s Vision 2022 strategic framework.
One of the ways the university hopes to achieve this is by upgrading and building more facilities that are capable of generating a higher standard of research projects.
This in turn will attract highly talented students from around the world and provide an exceptional student-centred and research-driven experience.
Wits also plans to increase improve postgraduate enrolment said Prof Loyiso Nongxa, Vice Chancellor. Nongxa said all the planned improvements require greater financial investment and the university had set aside R1.2-billion for infrastructure development. Nongxa said the programme is starting to show results.
The Wits Art Museum, located at University Corner is set to open on May 19. The urban regeneration project cost the university R40 million and will showcase some of the 9 000 African artworks collected over the university’s 90 years.
The student residence in Parktown, Wits Junction, cost R511 million and is expected to raise the residence capacity of Wits campus by 25%.
Wits has also completed the FNB Building, the New Science Stadium and the upgrade to the Chamber of Mines Building since the project’s introduction by the vice chancellor when it began in 2007.
The implementation of these building projects is aimed at consolidating the university’s status as an intellectual powerhouse by 2015, according to an SPD statement.
Wits is currently ranked 251-275, alongside Stellenbosch university, according to the Times Higher Education World Rankings (THES).
On its website the SPD outlines some of the challenges African countries encounter when competing for ranking in systems such as THES.
These ranking systems can be ignorant of social and economical contexts; tend to focus on research in hard sciences rather than other subjects; rank universities on general rather than specific institutional performances and rely heavily on public perception.
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Senior executives hand over baton -It has been confirmed that the vice-chancellor and deputy vice-chancellor (DVC) of finance and operations will leave Wits by May next year.
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