Time flies, so believe some of us! However, beliefs are foreign to true scientists. In the snippets of The Year 2010 In Context, we set a tone on how as a Science Faculty’s our core business could (would) be conducted.
In this article, we have no intention to review strides made towards accomplishing our goals, if there were any. It is our objective to use the rear window to look into the future. A rear window may be unfamiliar and, indeed, mind boggling to some but, we must hasten to remind that: whilst looking into the future the rear window helps to remind us of the distance covered thus far -lest we project to cover a distance we may never closer to covering in “our lifetime”.
In any case, great leaders are those who always look behind their shoulders to ascertain if there are still followers. No great leader wants to cover any mile without followers: there must be somebody besides the leader to tell a story.
WHERETO FROM HERE?
Over the past two months, Faculty witnessed the appointment of substantive Heads of Department – so batons were passed from Hollywood stars to persons who will be responsible and accountable for the day-to-day running of our departments; they will manage departmental staff, control budget and be accountable for the quality (and ensuring delivery) of our academic offerings.
Their arrival should be hailed by all because many amongst us were beginning to think that the Faculty is at the base of our academic activities – when the reality is that the most basic academic unit is a department. The Faculty Academic Project is spearheaded from departments in the Faculty. That said then, the HoD has a dual responsibility then: to protect the interests of the students and those of departmental colleagues (and the University). To be charged with such a responsibility is no mean feat: doubting Thomases were not only characteristic of the Messiah’s era, there are many everywhere even during our era.
Having said that, a call is hereby made that we all give these HoDs unqualified support – after all they did not come into power through a popular vote.
At a recent Faculty Retreat, our “new brand” was inducted into Managing an Academic Department, facilitated by Hlengani Siweya. I seem to remember them agreeing at the end of the two-day retreat that two issues came out clearly which they would want to live with for a long time. First, Management is being able to
say Yes or No as and when the situation demands that you do so. Second, Leaders lead from the front because nobody has ever given direction from a backseat.
Our commitment to the betterment of the education levels of our students has never been in doubt: many amongst us have gone beyond the call of duty to teach far beyond office hours so much so that their watches are now used to distinguish day from night. And many of our students have shown equal commitment. We plan to propose a Faculty Pledge before the end of the year. So you ask: What is a Faculty Pledge?
Through it, it is hoped, that Faculty and its students will commit to conducting their business and engage each other in an honest and appreciable manner. Put differently, both Faculty and its students will commit to ensuring that “a promise they make is the promise they keep“. We will give the number of tests on the dates we would have given at the beginning of the semester, we will be punctual for our lectures, we will be available for consultation by our students, we will give assessment feedback within Faculty policy, etc.
On the students’ side, they will commit to attending and be punctual to all scheduled lectures and or practicals and or tutorials, submission of exercises and or assignments and or any assessment form as and when required, etc. And this will then be a Faculty Pledge of the Faculty of Science and Agriculture.
FACULTY MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
At the Faculty Retreat referred to above, we discussed the composition of the Faculty Management Committee (FMC) and its terms of reference. In a nutshell, the FMC will comprise the Faculty Executive Team (FET) and Heads of Department of the Faculty as members and its main mandate is “prescribe” an Annual Faculty Academic Project and “see” to its operationalization. In particular, the underperformance of some of the Faculty Committees came under the spotlight – and the re-structured compositions of these are as follows:
Faculty Community Engagement Committee:
*Prof AE Nesamvuni, Mrs A Potgieter, Mr BM Ramadisha, Mr M Netsianda
Faculty Library Committee:
*Prof TT Netshisaulu, Mr C Sigauke, Dr MM Matla, Mr J Theron
Faculty Higher Degrees Committee:
*ProfLJ Mampuru, Dr HR Chauke, Prof M Potgieter, Dr FMG Vanassche, Dr FR Kutu, Mr MJD Manamela, Dr MP Mokhonoana
Faculty Teaching and Learning Committee:
*Prof D Kubayi, Prof IK Mariga, Mrs HJ du Plessis, Dr W Nxumalo
Faculty Time-Table Committee:
*Dr MP Mokgotho, Mr R Coetzee, Mr S Nkwane, Dr PS Ntoahae
Faculty Information and Communication Technology Committee:
*Mr MJ Matjuda, Ms N Buthelezi, Mr DM Pretorius, Dr T Musuang
Faculty Website Coordinating Committee:
*Mr MJD Manamela, Mr OO Nubi, Prof S Dippenaar, Mr Ck Mphahlele
Each of these committees is under the watchful eyes of one of the four Directors of School: believe you me, dysfunctionality belongs to the past!
PROGRAMME QUALIFICATIONS MIX REVIEWS AND HIGHER EDUCATION QUALIFICATIONS FRAMEWORK ALIGNMENT
For the first time in over two decades, Faculty followed a three-pronged approach in the voluminous exercise. Not only did we clean up the redundant modules, we restructured our undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, we reviewed their contents (and relevance) and aligned each programme to the new framework. The “graduateness” of our programmes will be tested through the comparability of our students with their peers from other institutions offering similar programmes.
In the past, we have advocated for a practice where lecturers were encouraged to make module outlines available to their students at the beginning of each module. Now, this is no longer an option but mandatory! In this regard, those who are not with us are expected to scatter, logically speaking.
Despite introducing minimal control measures in the admission of all categories of postgraduate students, their training remains a challenge to the Faculty. There are still colleagues who see no problem (and pretend to be comfortable) in supervising more than fifteen Masters and or Doctoral students – with lamentable consequences. (Like it or not, those who are in this category are committing an academic crime.) This cannot and will not be allowed going into the future. In this connection, it is hoped that the FHDC will be
roped in to draw a Framework for Postgraduate Education in the Faculty – and Prof Norris will advise Faculty on what our intake in 2013 should look like.
An initiative was taken for an Annual Event called Postgraduate Research Day – this is in its third year. In addition, Faculty Research Day started last year and this is held on the same day with the Postgraduate Day. Prizes are awarded to best presenters in the M & D categories per school. Its effectiveness is there for all to see. However, Faculty is contemplating introducing some form of recognition to Faculty researchers in ways that will encourage and are attractive to researchers. In this regard, please watch the space.
We are a Faculty characterized by islands of excellence and seas of mediocrity on a number of fronts. Honestly speaking, that is! There is no better honesty than this. It is a reality we never hope to shy away from. (The word we in the sentence just read assumes you agree but, if not, use the word I and the sentence will still read well.) Accepting our state of affairs is one thing, but resolving to change our state is far more important.
Faculty will embark on expanding our collaborations with established researchers to mentor and coach those that are in the seas. University policies provide for Research Associates, external supervision of M & D students, staff and student Exchanges, etc., all of which we will and have to take advantage of.
The Faculty, and indeed the University, is committed to the development of staff in the areas of teaching and learning, research capacity and understanding of our role in outreach engagement. To this extent, Faculty is still committed to channelling our meagre resources towards these core activities.
In particular, we remain committed to the support of our female and junior staff colleagues towards improvement of their qualification and research development. In this connection, Faculty strives to find ways and strategies to relieve them of the heavy workloads they are faced with on a continual basis so that they can concentrate on bettering themselves and becoming appreciable academics. Join my office celebrate the colleagues who have joined elite Faculty academics:
Dr MA Mahladisa,
PhD in Physics from the University of Limpopo
Chaminuka, PhD in Agricultural Economics from Wagenigen
University in the Netherlands
Dr TP Mafeo,
PhD in Plant Protection from the University of Limpopo
Dr MM Matla,
PhD in Zoology from the University of Limpopo
Dr Alfred Maroyi,
PhD in Botany from Wagenigen University in the Netherlands
Mr Mack Matlabyanawill
receive hid PhD in Mathematics (Pointfree Topology) from the University of
South Africa during their forth coming September 2012 Graduation
STUDENT BURSARIES AND AWARDS
Faculty is oblivious of the fact that many of our students, and indeed for the whole University, come from very poor and underprivileged backgrounds. My office, School Directors and Heads of Department have used every available opportunity to advocate for financial support to as many students as possible. Besides bursaries that come through the University Financial Aid office, we have been able to obtain bursaries for our deserving students from Telkom, Eskom, Sasol Inzalo Foundation, Environmental Affairs Department, Science and Technology, to name a few, to support our students. As a Faculty, we will continue to look for ways in which our deserving students can be assisted. The phrase Thank you is not unfamiliar to us, so Thank you to all our partners in the education of our students. Xitsonga xi ri: Kudya i ku engeta.
PARTNERSHIPS AND STAFF EXCHANGES
Over the period under review, Faculty has entered into partnership with a number of research institutions amongst which are the Kansas State University and Cornell University in the United States of America, the University of Venda, Fort Hare University, the giant tomato producer in the Southern hemisphere ZZ2 and the provincial Department of Agriculture with a view to broaden the scope our research endeavours. In this regard, some of our leading researchers are paired with colleagues from these institutions and collaborate on common areas of
interest. In addition, Dr Bombiti Nzanza is co-supervising some of our Masters students who are based at ZZ2. However, we have not taken full advantage of the platform provided by thesepartnerships: except for Prof Dannhauser who has been to the University of University of Szent Istvan in Hungary on an exchange visit and co=supervised a PhD there, senior Faculty members have not been keen on exchange visits abroad.Without limiting exchanges to senior academics, who should be encouraging junior colleagues to take advantage of these existing relationships from which the gains are innumerable.The arrival of Sasol Inzalo Foundation on the scene could not have been at a better time. Through the Foundation, Chemistry Honours, Masters and Doctoral students receive bursaries with monthly stipends, they are guaranteed vacation jobs and, for the very first time, Chemistry experts from Sasol will spend time at the University take some classes at Honours level and interact with our postgraduate experience. It is a partnership Faculty is also proud of – and therefore appeal to both students and staff to take full advantage for the duration of this relationship!
FACULTY BUSINESS TIMELINES
Timeframes drive any organisation’s ways of going about its business: the Faculty is no exception. For the months that lie ahead, the FMC has proposed the following framework:
|Submission of External moderated question papers||Directors of School||05 September 2012|
|Submission of Internal moderated question papers||Directors of School||21 September 2012|
|Faculty and Postgraduate Research Day||Faculty Higher Degrees Committee||19 September 2012|
|BSc Year 1 Test Timetable||Faculty Time Table Committee||24 July 2012|
|Modules Outline Report||Faculty Teaching and Learning Committee||06 August 2012|
|3rd Faculty Board meeting||Faculty Assistant Registrar||16 August 2012|
|4th Faculty Board meeting||Faculty Assistant Registrar||15 October 2012|
|Faculty Workload Analysis||Faculty Teaching and Learning Committee||31 August 2012|
|Faculty Examinations Committee||Directors of School||05 December 2012|
HUMAN RESOURCES MATTERS
Together with the two Faculty Human Resources officials, the Executive Dean has been working very hard (and continues) to fill up ALL vacancies across all sections of the Faculty. The challenge has been the inability to persuade identified individuals to accept University offers made for reasons my office does not want to venture into. Despite these challenges, over the period under review, the following appointments stand over and we are proud to communicate the following appointments (please read some of them):
Prod John Dunlevey, Professor in Geology
Prof David Kubayi, Associate Professor in (and Head of) Mathematics and Applied Mathematics
Prof B Nleya, Associate Professor in Computer Sciences
Prof Moses Mbewe, Associate Professor in (and Head of) Department Water and Sanitation
Prof Edgar Nesamvuni, Professor in Agricultural Extension (and Manager of the Centre for Rural Community Empowerment)
Mr Louis Eloff, Manager of the University Experimental Farm
Dr Winston Nxumalo, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry
Dr D la Grange, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry
I need to indicate that my office is happy that almost all appointments have already justified their selection above other candidates they competed with for the positions.
We will continue to work hard to fill up the remaining vacancies. Any envisaged (new) positions will be dealt with through the prescribed University procedures and processes, for which we appeal for your patience. In this communique, my office would also like to record our appreciation of the services of three loyal servants of the Faculty (and the University) who accepted post-retirement appointments and have served us well. To them, we say: Thank you for allowing us to rob you of your deserved retirement! We wish you good health in your retirement.
Under the industrious and soft-spoken Faculty Registrar, Ms Mokgadi Molefe, Faculty administrative personnel have executed their tasks with some level of distinction. Admission of prospective students is no easy task: there can be slip-ups (which are often unintended). However, if found guilty of impropriety, they should remember that the ultimate penalty is dismissal. Yes! On the positive side, School Directors will be expected (and it is their duty) to be responsible for the admission and registration of all our students. Administrative staff are executors of decision made at the level of the Executive Dean and School Directors. Remember, School Directors act on delegated authority and, a common truth, delegated authority cannot (and should not) be delegated further.
When temptations come, many associate it with bad luck. Kindly note that this is not always true, and therefore, not TRUE! Reference is hereby made to the
value of numbers in our active lives. Like it or not, numbers rule our actions – I still need to be proved wrong in my belief that: without numbers you cannot go far. Remember, science is premised on evidence (experimental or otherwise): can you show me someone who achieved something without reliance on numerical evidence or arguments?
It is a thought: so, it is either true or false.
I remain, IN THE SUNSHINE, WE ARE!
Hlengani Siweya, PhD (Professional Natural Scientist)