Excitement mounts at launch of Sol Plaatje University

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kimberley – Matrics in the Northern Cape are excited about the much anticipated Sol Plaatje University -- the country’s first new university since 1994 -- that was unveiled in Kimberley today.

Nineteen-year-old Michael Haarlem, a matric learner, told SAnews that he can’t wait to be one of the first students to enrol at Sol Plaatje University.

“I don’t want to study far,” said Haarlem, who wants to study Architecture at the new university.

Construction of the university is set to start this month at a cost of more than R6 billion and is expected to be completed by 2015.

Speaking at the launch of the university, Higher Education and Training Minister Dr Blade Nzimande said he had no doubt that the new university will be a great institution.

“It is the first new university to be launched since 1994 and as such, is a powerful symbol of the country’s democracy, inclusiveness and growth.

“Sol Plaatje University is an integral part of government’s programme of expanding access to higher education and growing knowledge production and the innovation capabilities of our nation,” he said.

Nzimande said the university will accelerate access to university education and contribute to producing high level skills for the country.

The university is expected to enrol about 5 000 students. About 150 students will be enrolled during the first intake at the beginning of 2014.

According to Nzimande, preparations are underway. The site has been identified and the constructors will be announced soon.

Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas said the launch of the university was an exciting challenge, which provides a unique opportunity to develop the intellectual capacity to meet the high-level human resource needs.

“We hope that with this institution, we will shape the future of our children,” she said, adding that the institution symbolised victory.

Lecturers and students will have access to the most advanced communications platforms and processes. Well-equipped libraries, knowledge resources and laboratories will form part of the university’s research and scientific infrastructure to support its niche areas of specialisation.

According to the Higher Education and Training Department, courses to be offered by the university will include Museum Studies, Archaeology, Indigenous Languages and Restorative Architecture.

Feasibility of establishing new universities

In 2010, Nzimande appointed a task team to investigate the feasibility of establishing new universities in South Africa.

The team, led by Professor Cheryl de la Rey, Vice Chancellor of the University of Pretoria, recommended that a new university should be built in the Northern Cape. Mpumalanga province is also earmarked to get a new university.

The task team report was submitted to the minister in September 2011 and after consultation with the Council on Higher Education, the decision was made to proceed with the establishment of the universities.

In July 2012, after an extensive assessment of the suitability of a number of towns and sites in the Northern Cape, President Jacob Zuma announced that the new university would be located in the inner city of Kimberley.

The university has been named after struggle stalwart Sol Plaatje, who resided in Kimberley. Plaatje, who was born in 1876 and died in 1932, was an activist and politician. He spent much of his life in the struggle for the enfranchisement and liberation of African people. He was an intellectual, journalist, linguist, translator and writer. – SAnews.gov.za

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