Wits changing society for good

‘Wits for Good’ is about advancing social change and innovation, or is it? 

Wits University is using its ‘Wits for Good’ slogan to attempt to change society through innovation and research. In 2019 the slogan was changed from ‘Wits gives you the edge’ to ‘Wits for good’ to represent the university’s achievements over the last century of its existence. 

The university’s head of marketing Ferna Clarkson says: “It differentiates who we are and what we stand for creating new knowledge to advance humanity which ensures that we leave things better than when we found them.”

For Wits to continue playing a leading role in solving global crises and advancing social justice it must find other funding sources, including donations. Peter Maher, the director of the Wits Alumni Relations Office says, “It’s just the reality that we have, we can’t offer free education because then we’re going to bankrupt the university and that’s not going to benefit anyone, and the tax base can’t afford to fund universities fully.”

Peter Bezuidenhout, director of the Wits Advancement, Development and Fundraising Office (DFO) says; “The university creates a vast range of skills for this economy. Sure, these graduates go out and get jobs, but they are doing jobs for good.” 

Dr Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi, Dr Thokozani Mathebula, and Dr Sarah Godsell, who are lecturers at the Wits School of Education wrote an article which appeared in the  Daily Maverick in 2021 titled ‘Wits. For Good’ – For whose good, exactly?’. 

In it, they argue that the ‘good’ is not a public good, but rather a market good for those privileged students with easy access to online learning and who are willing to ignore those outside market-oriented universities. 

Chair of Theoretical Particle Cosmology at Wits School of Physics, Professor Vishnu Jejjala, says that teaching and research are public goods since teaching produces an educated middle class, and research lets the university explore the world in new ways. This role is vital for society to understand better where and how they live. 

Therefore, the role of higher education in South Africa is not merely to churn out research that adorns the bookshelves of the intelligentsia, to be proudly displayed during Zoom calls, or to produce jobless graduates. It’s true function is to transform society and create a space for the coming together of classes, generations, and innovative ideas.  

“Wits for Good (stands for) the greater good of society by enriching young minds and helping nurture young African talent, I think that’s important, and we’re proud to be a part of that legacy,” says Constant Beckrling, a Wits alumnus 

Wits university boasts a proud legacy of producing some of Africa’s most remarkable minds advancing societies globally. According to the latest global university rankings by Cybermetrics Lab Wits is the second highest ranked university on the continent. The university continues to set a high standard for today’s Witsies, ensuring that their excellence inspires future generations. 

“Wits For Good means that it’s something that’s gonna be a part of life, that’s gonna carry me throughout and once a Witsie is always gonna be a Witsie!” says Vidhya Patel, a first-year student studying BSc in Biological Science.  

The university is continuing its eternal legacy as a towering African institution  to transform society for what it perceives as ‘good’.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Wits for Good billboards and posters are plastered on walls and highways across Johannesburg, this one is on the side of the New Commerce Building on West Campus. Photo: Colin Hugo

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