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Sad goodbye to VC Badat

Date Released: Wed, 5 March 2014 09:35 +0200

Rhodes University, Grahamstown and the entire Eastern Cape will be the poorer for the departure of Rhodes vice-chancellor Dr Saleem Badat.

 He announced this week that he was leaving the institution. He will be taking up a position at the Mellon Foundation in New York as the first director of its newly established international higher education and strategic projects programme Badat is the university's first black vice-chancellor in its 102 years. It is likely the appointment of this somewhat formidable and seemingly austere former anti-apartheid struggler was viewed by at least some with trepidation.

But while he brooked no argument over the need to transform the university, he did so in a way that got most on board. His first startling act in 2006 was to donate a large portion of what he considered to be a grossly large salary and benefits towards the establishment of a scholarship fund called the Jakes Gerwel Rhodes University Scholarship Fund in honour of the university's then chancellor, whom Badat greatly admired.

It is estimated he has contributed some R250 000 a year over the past eight years to this fund - meaning his contribution alone has passed the R1.5-million mark. Many of his top management adopted the practice and the fund - aimed at getting matriculants from disadvantaged communities in the Eastern Cape into university - has benefited many. Both he and his wife, Shireen, share a passion for education and community engagement.

During their time in Grahamstown, numerous links have been established between the university and formerly disadvantaged schools in Grahamstown and across the province. Badat is also known for his ability to squeeze millions of rands out of government and other reluctant donors in order to expand and improve the university and its facilities.

During his time numerous residences and academic buildings have been built and the outdated library was renovated, modernised and extended. Badat has never abandoned his fight for equality and democracy in South Africa. He uses the many platforms his job offers him to fearlessly speak out against what he terms the crass materialism and conspicuous consumption of the new elite. He also lives this ideal. He eschews the trappings of wealth and walks almost everywhere in Grahamstown.

He also works double the normal work hours of most other South Africans - which he admits has taken its toll on his family. He is extremely proud of the little university's ability to punch above its intellectual weight and will use every opportunity to brag about its researchers, their output and the teaching role Rhodes plays. In one interview, Badat spoke of what he believed the role of the privileged in South Africa should be.

"We exist on this earth to create a better society in which everyone's intellect can flower instead of just wallowing in survival where they have to worry about where their next meal is coming from." He did everything in his power to make this happen from his position as Rhodes vice-chancellor.

Article Source: DAILY DISPATCH (Final Edition)

Source:Daily Dispatch