Tributes poured in for Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) late Professor Thengani Harold Ngwenya, who passed away on 2 January 2021, and who has left an indelible mark on the DUT community, his Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) staff, academic peers and external stakeholders.
An online tribute ceremony was held via Microsoft Teams by the DUT CELT staff, on Thursday, 14 January 2021, to pay homage to the late Director of CELT, Professor Ngwenya.
The online ceremony, under the helm of Programme Director – Prof Livingstone Makondo, celebrated the late visionary leader’s immense passion and academic contribution to the field of teaching and learning as Director at CELT, his interactions with his DUT colleagues, and the legacy of knowledge he had established which was recognised by many of his academic peers, who had the fortune to work with him.
Beautiful, heartfelt messages were delivered, academic stories from his peers, poems and beautiful rendition of songs, in his honour, at the tribute ceremony.
Leading the tribute was DUT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, Prof Nokuthula Sibiya, who said he was the embodiment of humanity and indeed a transformational leader.
“May his soul rest in peace. You will forever live in our hearts and thoughts,” she said.
Next tribute came from his CELT staff family, (whom he fondly called the ‘CELTics’), stating that the late Prof Ngwenya frequently reminded them that CELT is the academic engine of the university and he led them in a gentle and dignified manner.
They further said that he provided energy, commitment, motivation and inspiration to them, his ‘CELTics’ and to all colleagues with whom he worked with at DUT and within the Higher Education sector.
They also expressed that he will be fondly remembered by his students for the caring and fatherly way in which he mentored them in their studies, which he had extended this same care, concern and mentoring to colleagues, always encouraging and supporting them in their studies.
“Our dear Prof Ngwenya we know that you have fought a good fight, you have finished the race and you have kept the faith. To his dear wife, Dr Jabu Ngwenya, children Ricco and Zanenhlahla, family members, friends and colleagues, our hearts and prayers are with you at this most difficult time. Hamba Kahle, our dear Prof! Forever in our hearts and thoughts,” said his loving CELT Family
Dr Jabulisile Ngwenya from the Ngwenya family, thanked everyone for coming together to share their respect and admiration for their late father.
“We are so touched and overwhelmed by the deep impact his mind has had on so many, but even more touched by the way in which his heart has moved everyone who has spoken today. Thank you for the love and effort that has made this moment possible, may God be with us all, we will see each other soon,” he said.
Dr Whitfield Green, Chief Director: Teaching and Learning Development at Department of Higher Education and Training, (DHET), said Prof Ngwenya was the epitome of servant leadership. “His contribution to advancing teaching and learning in university education will be ever valued. Deep condolences from the DHET to the Ngwenya family and the DUT family,” he said.
Prof Robert Balfour, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning, North-West University, shared his academic journey of working with the late Prof Ngwenya, as well as thanked DUT colleagues for creating the opportunity to celebrate the very special life of Prof Ngwenya.
Prof Johannes Andreas Smit from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), echoed his sentiments that Prof Ngwenya was a remarkable person.
Prof Ahmed Bawa, Chief Executive Officer at Universities South Africa (USAF) said it was a privilege to join the celebration of the life of a wonderful scholar and a wonderful human being, somebody he cherished as a colleague and a fellow academic.
“His influence will long be felt. My deepest condolences to Dr Jabu Ngwenya and the Ngwenya family. I wish you much strength during this very difficult time. Be assured that the life of Prof Ngwenya will live with us for a long, long time,” he stressed.
EThekwini municipality mayor, councillor Mxolisi Kaunda’s paid a fitting tribute to Prof Ngwenya.
“On behalf of the people of eThekwini, we wish to convey our heartfelt condolences to the family of Professor Ngwenya, the Durban University of Technology (DUT) and the entire higher education sector. The untimely death of Prof Ngwenya has not only robbed the people of eThekwini of his exceptional skills and talent, but the entire country given his sterling contribution to higher education,” he said.
He further stated that everyone should find solace in the fact that uMtimande left a legacy and the best way to pay homage to him is to encourage young people to make education fashionable.
“As the Municipality, we have taken a bold step to work closely with the academia to ensure that the city produces graduates’ that have relevant skills to our economy. We have no doubt that Prof Ngwenya was going to play a critical role in this initiative. Indeed, he will be sorely missed by all of us for the contribution he made to the development of our country. May his soul rest in peace,” he said.
CELT’s Judy Reddy, who worked closely with the late Prof Ngwenya, thanked the DUT community, CELT staff, academic peers, external stakeholders and students for taking time to pay tribute to their beloved Professor.
She also thanked the Ngwenya family for being part of the online tribute ceremony, and relayed that CELT will continue to live on in their work as they take life’s lessons from him of remaining humble, developing themselves educationally and presenting their positions in a scholarly, well researched and contextually relevant manner.
Pictured: The late Professor Thengani Harold Ngwenya.