Change the world


Nelson Mandela University’s autumn graduation got off to a great start, with three ceremonies for close to 400 George Campus graduates held at Eden Place, in the Garden Route town.

During these ceremonies on Thursday, 07 April 2022, and Friday, 08 April 2022, 396 students were awarded their under- and postgraduate qualifications. Of these, five were master’s degrees and six were doctoral.

Addressing the congregation that included institutional officer bearers, graduates and their families, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sibongile Muthwa, congratulated all graduates for their success despite the challenges encountered and further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today is a truly significant day. I hope that all of you who are graduating will remember it for the rest of your lives,” said Prof Muthwa.

“On behalf of our Chancellor [Dr Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi], the University Council [chaired by Ambassador Nozipho January-Bardill], Senate and the entire University community, we are deeply proud of you.

“You have triumphed. You have proved your ability to succeed despite a myriad of difficulties, including the coronavirus pandemic, disruption of in-class learning, and the socio-economic challenges we are facing in our country and indeed across the globe.”

Prof Muthwa praised staff and students’ resilience and adaptability over the past two years in response to the myriad of challenges that this period has presented.

“Thinking back two years ago to March and April 2020, we had no idea how deeply the coronavirus pandemic would affect and change every aspect of our lives, how many lives we would lose and how long the virus would endure,” she said.

“I think back to how quickly students and staff adapted to online learning and research, to learn from home, often far away, or in your residence rooms, wherever the pandemic found you. And you triumphed, one and all. For this, I salute you.”

Understanding the role of universities as powerful engines for building the kind of socially just, democratic societies we wish to live in, Mandela University has its learning and teaching philosophy rooted in humanising pedagogy.

“Our approach is informed by the liberatory education philosophy of Paulo Freire.  One of the arguments put forward by Freire was that ‘In order to achieve humanization, which presupposes the elimination of dehumanizing oppression, it is absolutely necessary to surmount the limit-situations in which people are reduced to things’,” said Prof Muthwa.

“Our community-based ethos across all disciplines aims to cultivate civic-minded graduates who can compete globally, but who also have a deep passion to change the lives of vulnerable, underserved communities in our country. This, we believe to be central in our approach to deploying our scholarly academic missions of learning and teaching, research and engagement.”

Graduates excitedly interacted with their academics, friends and family members as they celebrated their achievements. They are among a total 7 041 graduates, of which 197 are masters and 52 doctorates, for the entire institution.

Among the graduates were Cerneels Coetzee, 56, who was the first to be awarded a doctoral degree in the Faculty of Business and Economic Sciences at a George Campus ceremony, under the supervision of Prof Madele Tait. Previously, doctoral graduates in the faculty had opted to receive their certificates during the faculty ceremony held in Gqeberha.

Dr Coetzee, a lecturer and consultant in Business Management, researched the customer relationship practices and online servicescape (interaction between customers and employees) for an unsought business, such as a funeral home.

According to Prof Tait, his research topic, including the construction of a functional online servicescape, is largely unresearched in academia.

“I always envisioned my doctoral study to be the ‘crowning glory’ of my career, it was a life goal, but also related to career advancement in higher education. And it really lived up to the crowning glory aspect of it,” he said.

Phozisa Dlokweni, who hails from Ngqeleni, Eastern Cape, obtained her master’s degree in Forestry – a field she pursued as a result of family  influence – for her father was  a forestry contractor, and her uncle, a forester.

She is currently an intern at the University of Pretoria, in the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), employed as a field extension officer.

“My supervisor, Dr Muedanyi Ramantswana, has been my role model and encouraged me to work hard and be dedicated. The experience gained at the University during my internship and research at training provider MTO Cape, has augmented my academic journey as a life changing experience that I will forever cherish,” she said.

Married couple, Emily, 30, and Samantha McCulloch-Jones, 36, were ecstatic to share their graduation, both obtaining doctorates in Nature Conservation at the Campus.

Emily was known as “the fern lady” because her research focused on invasion biology and, 

particularly, alien ferns, their ecology and distribution globally. She also focused on how trade influences their invasion potential as well as a source of introduction for alien species.

For her PhD, Samantha worked with governance, looking at landscape scale conservation initiatives on the west coast of South Africa and the transfer of knowledge between conservation entities.

“Being able to complete our studies side by side after having walked this PhD journey together, with all of its ups and downs, has been the most incredible and fulfilling experience. We hope to make women in science proud and work together towards bridging the gap between science and practice to facilitate the shift towards an environmentally conscious future in South Africa,” they said.

Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777