A beacon of hope

Shortly after his landmark inauguration as the Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, the Donor Digest team sat down with Dr Sizwe Mabizela to highlight some of the grand challenges he feels Rhodes University is well situated to help the Grahamstown community tackle.

“Knowledge is the greatest asset that we bring to any partnership and we are hoping to create a model of how a higher education institution can work with a local community to create a more vibrant, sustainable and prosperous community,” he said


“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”

– Chinese proverb



 “There are so many challenges in Grahamstown and that is why Rhodes University has been quite firm in its commitment to local challenges,” said Dr Mabizela. “We need to brighten the corner where we are. If we are to be taken seriously as an institution of higher learning we should be immersed in the local challenges with a view to developing knowledge and scholarship that may inform how to deal with similar challenges in other parts of the country and, indeed, the world.”

At the centre of these challenges is a failing educational system, but, Dr Mabizela believes, “People shouldn’t have to pay private school fees to access quality education.”

“It breaks my heart to know that there are many young people in this town who do not have access to quality basic education. In this town you have some of the best schools in the country, excellent public and private schools, and within a stone’s throw are some of the most dysfunctional schools imaginable serving the majority of the young people of this community.”

“As an institution of higher learning we cannot sit and fold our arms when young people in our midst are condemned to a life without hope, to a life of despair, because of failure to provide quality education for them. And so I have made a commitment that we will work with all the role-players in education to ensure that there is quality learning in every school in this community – and  we can achieve that. We want to make Grahamstown a centre of academic excellence starting with early childhood education, through foundation phase, intermediate phase, all the way to university.”

There is incontrovertible evidence that early childhood development is critically important for the holistic development of a person as well  as for later educational success. Dr Mabizela is convinced that it is essential to invest energy, time and resources into this crucial window of opportunity in every child’s life. “I am hoping that we will be able to raise funds to create a chair in the Faculty of Education in Early Childhood Development. Rhodes has done a lot of work in ECD and also in foundation phase and is ideally positioned as an institution to offer expertise in this regard. I do want us to be a model of an institution that is engaged with the community and dealing with the issues, particularly education, in very imaginative and creative ways.”