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To contribute in building sustainable future leaders, the Department of Student Governance and Development in collaboration with the Department of Student Housing and Residence Life and the Centre for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) held a virtual launch of the Vuna Leadership Academy (VunaLA) via Microsoft Teams on Friday, 21 May 2021. 

Facilitating the launch was Mzwandile Khumalo who is the Coordinator: Student Support and Development Unit at CELT and who is also a member of the co-team responsible for the curation of the Vuna Leadership Academy.   

He said the Leadership Academy strives to be a premier space for training, research, reflection and reservoir of knowledge pertaining to leadership practice and studies for young leaders.   

“DUT has since revised and updated its strategic vision. In this quest to reimagine itself, the University has identified technology and environmental concerns as disruptors that add complexity to whatever plans the university may hatch. These disruptive processes have impacted both the sustenance of life and future economies, ecology and eco-systems. In a world of increased and fast-paced complexities and chaos, the quality of leadership could be the last defence against the possibility of perishing. If deficit in leadership could exacerbate the situation of organisations, communities and general society, it behoves DUT to take positive steps to develop leadership among its students to mitigate this eventuality. This would contribute towards clarifying what it means to be a DUT citizen, stabilise the university and help the wider society receive DUT students and graduates as engaged citizens,” said Khumalo.   

VUNALA shall deliver the following offerings:    

1) Ad-hoc leadership related workshops;    

2) Formal NQF accredited short courses on leadership;    

3) Formal syllabus of leadership to be possibly integrated into the DUT General Education programme;    

4) Clearing House/Research capacity for postgraduate studies on leadership.  

Siphelele Mbhele, second-year Homeopathy student who is also part of her residence house committee at DUT expressed her gratitude to DUT for establishing the Leadership Academy which she stated could results in the end of student protests. She said this programme could change the students’ way of thinking and of solving problems.  

“If we could all be equipped with the right leadership skills we would strive as the university. For instance, it has become our culture norm that at the beginning of the year, we always have strikes. With the right leadership qualities such as good problems skills and good communication skills, all of the strikes would have been avoided. As students we often face academic pressure and personal problems that result in us performing poorly. The Vuna Leadership Academy will instill in us qualities that will help us tackle all of these problems and start succeeding in our academics. The implementation of the academy will ensure that DUT graduates are able to positively impact the society and the economy,” she said.  

Welcoming the guests was DUT’s Dean of Students and custodian of VunaLa, Dr Maditsane Nkonoane who said their view is that this Leadership Academy will go a long way in equipping DUT student leaders beyond just positional leaders, with the required skills of leadership once they have also completed the training. He said the Leadership Academy is launched in response to the death and deficit of leadership that continues to ravage the society and leadership.    

“This academy will equip our students with a unique DNA that will also enable them to compete successfully against their peers from elsewhere long after they have completed their qualifications. On behalf of Students Services and Student Governance in particular I would like to extend an invitation to our student community to participate in this venture, which is also in resonance to the perspective of Stewardship as envisioned in our ENVISION2030. I would like to also acknowledge all colleagues who worked tirelessly in the last year to prepare all that is required for the successful launch, also beyond the launch put together relevant curricula and programmes that will equip our students to become ethical and servant leaders,” said Dr Nkonoane.  

SRC Deputy President, Slindokuhle Ndzalela also delivered his message of support stating that as SRC they support and endorse any initiative that seek to promote and empower the lives of DUT students.  

Also part of the launch was Phindile Gordon, who is currently completing her Advanced Diploma in Public Relations and Communications at one of DUT’s Midlands campuses. She is the winner of the Leadership Academy Naming competition. Gordon said she chose the name Vuna deriving from IsiZulu idiom (Uvuna okutshalile) meaning “you shall reap what you saw”.  

Director of Special Projects at the Office of the Vice-Chancellor at DUT, Dr David Mohale acknowledged that the name came from one of the students. He said it was a second important name to come from a student after Hlomisa Leadership Academy which was also suggested by a student. Dr Mohale said these two students and their achievement suggests that DUT is blessed with students’ brains that can think deeper about important issues that not only affect DUT but society as a whole. He said it was a momentous moment where they continue to take DUT forward.  

“Around late 2017, the Office of the Vice-Chancellor did have informal discussions around the idea of launching a proper formal structure that will coordinate efforts around empowerment of our students in as far as development of leadership skills and abilities are concerned. It was primarily based on our observation that in a number of institutions leadership development interventions tend to focus narrowly on student governance matters. The focus mainly on the SRC and those who happen to participate in clubs or societies. A number of students have been missing out on the important leadership development,” he said.  

Pictured: Dr David Mohale  

Simangele Zuma  

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