Change the world


Last year was a momentous one for Nelson Mandela University due to the long-awaited opening of the medical school on our Missionvale campus.

It was an exciting development for the city and province, as it is only the 10th medical school in SA.

Much has changed, irrevocably and for the better, since the Missionvale campus was first set up as Vista University by the apartheid government in the early 1980s.

Vista was built for black students, part of an abhorrent and painful era that saw many young people denied access to the then-University of Port Elizabeth on the basis of race.

Vista closed in 2000 and the physical campus later became part of the greater whole now named Nelson Mandela University.

That unjust past still casts a long shadow on SA. Apartheid may be gone but poverty, unemployment and inequality persist, making it even more imperative that this campus positions itself in service to society.

Where the south campus in Summerstrand may be the largest of our seven campuses, Missionvale may have the biggest heart, echoed in the social impact of much work undertaken here, with the medical school the latest addition.

The medical school’s educational orientation focuses on healthier lifestyles, community health and wellbeing, food security and poverty alleviation, and economic development.

This is a deliberate strategy. However, lofty visions and strategies mean little unless backed up with resources.

On infrastructure alone, NMU and partners have invested more than R114m in upgrades to buildings that house the medical programme.

This covers a wide range of laboratories, lecture venues and offices. It also provides dedicated spaces for nursing and biokinetics students.

This excludes the cost of state-of-the-art equipment, such as the world’s first virtual dissection table, a $100,000 (R1.5m) Anatomage Table which helps students learn anatomy.

Other subjects such as clinical skills and physiology also have sophisticated machinery, with technology enhancing traditional teaching methods in powerful ways.

Valuable though the equipment and property on the Missionvale campus is, its most precious asset is its people.

Crime is a national challenge and we have a comprehensive security plan drawn up in consultation with key stakeholders.

We have invested in numerous security improvements and some of these have already made an impact on our community. It is heartening to hear that our armed response patrols in the street leading to campus have led to a decrease in opportunistic crime near the busy intersection of the Johnson and old Uitenhage roads.

There are ongoing investments in surveillance, access control, intruder alarm and business management systems, but working with students, staff and community members is equally important to ensure the safety of the entire neighbourhood.

The medical school is exciting, definitely, but it does not stand alone on an everdeveloping campus.

Another jewel in the Missionvale crown is the R56m foundation phase complex of the faculty of education which opened in 2016.

Until then, student teachers had classes in Summerstrand.

By having our flagship programme here, we are relaying the message all children deserve a first-class educational start in life, and we bring teacher education closer to some of the communities we serve.

It demonstrates there is no place for “us” and “them” at NMU, and shows our commitment to driving impactful change in education in SA.

Missionvale also has several engaged entities adding to transformation, such as:

● Our law and psychology clinics, which offer students the chance to encounter the real world at the same time as offering indigent clients top-class consultation services under rigorous supervision;

● Through the Manyano Schools Network, the Centre for the Community School works alongside educators and parents to build and strengthen less well-resourced schools; and

● A partnership with an NGO, private enterprise and the community has seen an innovative aquaponics project yield several tonnes of fish and fresh produce annually.

There are many other initiatives, projects and partnerships which further academic development and engagement.

There is also the university’s renewable energy strategy, part of an overall sustainability drive on each campus.

In Missionvale, a proposal has been accepted for a multimillion-rand photovoltaic solar panel plant.

Today, the Missionvale campus is a beacon of hope for the surrounding townships. Despite its history, the campus’s origins do not define its future.

Today, the gates of learning are open, inclusive and welcoming.

This article appeared in The Herald (South Africa) on 25 Feb 2022, written by Sharon Masiza, Senior Director of the Missionvale, Bird Street and Second Avenue campuses of Nelson Mandela University.


Contact information
Ms Zandile Mbabela
Media Manager
Tel: 0415042777