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Change the world


Nelson Mandela University will be conferring an honorary doctorate on Professor Noel Chabani Manganyi, South Africa’s first post-apartheid director-general of education.



The Honorary Doctorate of Industrial Psychology will be awarded at the University’s graduation ceremony on 13 December.

Prof Manganyi is also the first black South African to be registered as a clinical psychologist. A renowned scholar, he is a Fellow of the Psychological Society of South Africa – an award made in 2012 in recognition of a lifetime dedicated to psychology in our country.

He dedicated himself to the South African psycho-educational landscape, and to intellectual activism, making a seminal contribution to the black consciousness movement and black identity. 

Throughout his career Prof Manganyi highlighted the psychological impact of systemic racism on the experiences and identities of black people.

He says, South African universities must carry this torch and rigorously engage the challenge of decolonising education,” which, he adds, requires interrogating the role of history in shaping what he called “the black experience” in his book, Being-Black-in-the-World, published in 1973.

Prof Manganyi dedicates his Honorary Doctorate “to all the educators, past and present, who have dedicated their lives to the noble pursuit of knowledge and the betterment of society.”

He is a prolific writer and his works include Looking through the keyhole: Dissenting essays on the Black experience,  Political violence and the struggle in South Africa, On becoming a democracy: Transition and transformation in South African society and Apartheid and the making of a Black psychologist (2016) – for which he was awarded the Academy of Science of South Africa Humanities Book Award in 2018.

Through his research and publications, he challenged the field of psychology, to appropriately address mental health issues and make mental health services more available to all South Africans.

He emphasised this is all part of education – “the life journey we all travel that should include the pursuit and sharing of knowledge in all fields, the development of critical thinking skills and the cultivation of empathy and compassion”.

His life journey started in Limpopo. As he describes in his autobiography: “I have memories of my mother carrying out everyday household chores in our yard or planting seed for a maize and vegetable harvest in the summer.

Over the long years of my adult life I have been unreservedly grateful to my parents: my father had made it clear both to my mother and to me that attending school was an obligation that had to be met.”

After completing school, he enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of South Africa, where he graduated in 1962, followed by his Honours in psychology in 1964, his Master’s in 1968 and his PhD in 1970.  An internship at Baragwanath Hospital formed part of his doctoral studies and he was later appointed as a clinical psychologist there for three years.

He then took up a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University’s School of Medicine in the USA, and on returning to South Africa in 1976, he took up a professorship at the then University of the Transkei, establishing the University’s Department of Psychology, where he served as its first Chair.

In 1980, Wits University’s African Studies Institute appointed him as a senior research fellow and visiting professor where he remained for 10 years, producing some of his most important work, and continuing with his clinical practice part-time.

Moving into higher education in the early 1990s, Manganyi was appointed Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the then University of the North, now the University of Limpopo. During this time he worked closely with former president, Nelson Mandela who served as the Chancellor of the university at the time.

After the 1994 democratic elections, Mandela appointed Prof Manganyi as director-general in the Department of Education where he remained until 1999. Thereafter, he was appointed Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Pretoria. He became Vice-Principal of the same university in 2003, serving until 2006. 

Throughout his career Prof Manganyi subscribed to Mandela’s vision for quality education for all, and, as part of this the place of the university was very clear. Mandela said, “Only an autonomous university, independent of the government of the day, can become a great university, and great universities are what South Africa needs.”

He is confident that graduates of the university that uniquely carries Mandela’s name will do justice to his legacy. “It is incumbent upon all of us, as recipients of this precious gift of education, to use our knowledge and skills to make a positive impact on the world.”

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057