By Ntikana Ramohlale
The evening of 23 September 2022 was a significant one for the Rhodes University calendar as it marked the inauguration of the incoming Student Representative Council for the year 2023.
The event was attended by several highly esteemed guests, including the Chancellor of Rhodes University, Justice Lex Mpati; the Vice-Chancellor Professor Sizwe Mabizela; the DVC: Academic and Student Affairs Professor' Mabokang Monnapula-Mapesela and DVC: Research and Innovation Professor Peter Clayton.
Chairperson of the IEB, Ms Desiree Wicks, proudly announced that student participation reached quorum. She further conveyed appreciation to the IEB for their dedication and for staying up until the early morning hours counting the votes. Ballots were triple-checked to ensure the reliability of the results.
The keynote address was given by the Provincial Head for Eastern Cape of the South African Human Rights Commission, Dr Eileen Carter. In her speech, Dr Carter highlighted the significance of the youth in dealing with many issues facing society today. Speaking on such importance, she asked whether the youth are indeed the future or, in fact, the 'now'.
She further highlighted some of the issues that young people should pay attention to, specifically in the Eastern Cape, including the malnutrition facing many children in the province, and how this impacts their ability to excel academically.
Furthermore, Dr Carter reminded attendees that the Eastern Cape is considered the rape centre of the world and that it is incumbent upon young people to come up with solutions to this dire issue. Dr Carter urged young people always to use the Bill of Rights as their starting point to solve the province's problems.
The outgoing SRC President, Mr Botlhale Modisaotsile, reflected on the emotional journey he shared with the rest of the 2022 SRC and how they overcame various challenges by always respecting one another. In closing his address, Mr Modisaotsile urged the student body to actively pursue various leadership positions within the University and create their own success stories.
Ms Avuxeni Tyala, currently studying a joint Sociology honours degree, was joyous when she was announced as the 2023 SRC President. "There are no words that can describe the feeling of hearing your name announced in that context. It was humbling to realise that the student body is willing to put their trust in me to lead them next year," she said.
During her student representative role next year, Ms Tyala plans to focus on students' mental health concerns. "I aim to address this issue by consulting with Rhodes University alumni for advice on re-implementing support structures that are optimal for student learning. I also plan to work with my council to ensure that the venues and structures that are supposed to be for the students are used to improve mental health and well-being," she said.
She also plans to tackle the issue of student funding, which appears to be a national problem, as she discovered at a recent conference at Nelson Mandela University, where different youth activists and government representatives discussed the issue. "I look forward to focusing on funding within the institution," she said.
Finally, Ms Tyala plans to heal the trust between the student body and the SRC, which she believes has become contentious over recent years. "Trust in student governance is a big deal for me. I plan on bridging the gap between the students and the SRC in the best way possible," she said.
To do this, Ms Tyala plans to take a candid approach. She believes it is the responsibility of the SRC to be honest with the student body and not mislead them. "Challenges and obstacles are a part of the journey and the process, but I think it's all about how much you are willing to work to re-group, re-strategies, and ask for assistance along the way. Most importantly, to not leave the student body in the dark," she concluded.
The results for SRC 2023 are as follows:
- President - Avuxeni Tyala
- Vice-President - Mpho Khopeli
- Secretary General - Lazarus Kgageng
- Treasurer - Siyanda Nolala
- Academic Councillor - Tshepo Malebana
- Activism and Transformation Councillor - Ibabale Sobekwa
- Community Engagement Councillor - Lihle Manene
- Environmental Councillor - James Njoloza
- International Affairs Councillor - Tsidzo Hove
- Media Councillor - Nqobile Makamu
- Oppidan Councillor - Adrian February
- Postgraduate Affairs Councillor - Putuma Balintulo
- Projects Manager - Varshan Pillay
- Residence Councillor - Simphiwe Mnyande
- Societies Councillor - Buhle Luthuli
- Student Benefits and Sponsorship - Indiphile Ralo