The University Record, August 16, 1993

South Africa Initiative Office sponsors 1st international conference

By Andrea O. Jackson
News and Information Services

“I wish to see a cooperative effort to help transform South Africa’s primary, secondary and higher education. We need to retain and help these young people achieve success,” said Z.M. Chuenyane, vice chancellor of the University of Bophuthatswana.

Chuenyane was speaking to South African and U.S. educators and administrators at the International Conference on Institutional Transformation held on campus Aug. 1–4. The conference marked the first official activity of the U-M’s new South Africa Initiative Office (SAIO), established to help the South African government transform its universities and headed by Charles D. Moody.

“This is a timely conference,” Chuenyane said, comparing what is happening now in South Africa to the Civil Rights movement in the United States in the 1960s. “We have traveled here, heard your stories and know what to avoid.”

Chuenuyane said that it appears that the South African government is following the same slow, sluggish path to segregation that the U.S. government followed, “leaving poor Black schools with little to no resources available for the students to learn from.”

White South Africans “get donors’ fatigue when it comes to the educational purposes of Blacks,” Chuenyane said. “Some white South Africans believe that transformation means revolution, and that is a threatening word.”

Along with Chuenyane, Sam Mokgokong, South Africa’s only Black neurosurgeon, shared his views of the condition of education in South Africa. He believes that Black South Africans need to contribute to the growth and development of South Africa. To accomplish that, he said, “We need resources to build schools. There are still many children who attend class under trees, and there are often only eight or 10 students left in the 12th grade.

“It is common knowledge that the whites receive more resources for education than Black South Africans,” Mokgokong added.

Both men agreed that Black South Africans need the resources to concentrate on mathematics, science and commerce to succeed.

To combat the lack of education in the Black communities, Black educators in South Africa are forming academic support groups to improve student retention. They are also considering forming community colleges to serve as liberal and technological colleges.

Mokgokong stressed the need for more Black South Africans to go into medicine. In all of South Africa, “there are five million whites and 28 million Blacks. The number of qualified white doctors in South Africa is 22,000. There are only 1,100 qualified Black doctors. And half of these doctors have come in the past 10 years since the building of Medunsa, the only Black medical school in South Africa.”

“1976 was a year for struggle and it took student children protesting in the streets before the whites thought it was of national importance to make a change,” Chuenyane said, referring to the 1976 insurrection in Soewato.

Through the SAIO, Moody hopes to provide Black South Africans with an opportunity for a better quality of life through education.

SAIO’s objectives include sponsoring national and international conferences, workshops and symposia on institutional transformation and other relevant issues; developing institutional linkages with historically Black universities in South Africa and other institutions and agencies; developing collaborative and cooperative participatory research projects and serving as an information clearinghouse to promote collaborative partnerships.