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The Vuna Leadership Academy (VunaLA) at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) hosted its First Annual Vuna Student Leadership Awards to recognise the exceptional work done by individual students or teams of students. This prestigious event was held online via Microsoft Teams on Friday, 03 December 2021.

The ceremony was held to celebrate students’ behaviour that is aligned with the values advocated in the ENVISION2030 strategy of the University. The awards were bestowed on the most talented, exceptional students and young leaders from both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

The Programme Directors were DUT’s Mr Mpumelelo Shangase, of the Department of Sports Administration and Ms Lungile Ngcobo from the Department of Student Governance and Development meanwhile the DUT Registrar, Dr Maditsane Nkonoane delivered a thought-provoking keynote address.

DUT Registrar, Dr Maditsane Nkonoane delivering the keynote address.

“We are here to give credit where it is due, but far beyond that we are here to commend student leaders that that have selflessly led from the front, with or without titles. We give credit to all these students that have constantly carried the DUT banner and that have constantly spread the message of the DUT student values. I would like to commend them for taking part in this programme and making sure that they do this without any form of expectation of gain,” said Shangase highlighting the purpose of the event.

Speaking briefly about the Vuna Leadership Academy, Ngcobo said it is the part of the Sikusekele-We’ve Got You, a joint initiative between Student Governance and Development, Student Housing and Residence Life, Sports Administration and the Centre for Excellence Learning and Teaching (CELT). She mentioned that the student structures involved in the Academy are mainly from the Student Representative Council (SRC), Faculty Representatives, Housing Committee, Sports Administration and many others that are within the leadership structures.

Ms Sithembile Mthembu, a participant in the Vuna Leadership Academy jam sessions opened the event with a heart-warming poem about drugs recited in IsiZulu.

Delivering the official welcome was Mr Sihle Mbanjwa, Acting Director: Student Services and Development at DUT Midlands Centre. He extended a warm welcome to the DUT Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Zizwe Mthembu and all members of the executive management in attendance. He also gave a special welcome to the DUT Registrar, Dr Maditsane Nkonoane, who was the keynote speaker, the student leadership led by the SRC, DUT alumni, students in attendance and all the nominees.

“The Vuna Leadership Academy popularly referred to as the VunaLA is a cross departmental project that aims to develop student leadership. It is part of the holistic student support: Sikusekele-We’ve Got You. We are proud to host these inaugural awards in recognition of the contribution of our students to the university culture in line with our ENVISION2030. We congratulate our awardees, however, we also recognise those who may not have been nominated or chosen for awards as the journey has been a collaborative effort. In a context such as these leadership awards, we must acknowledge even those who have not been awarded for their effort and contribution, as it is worthy of celebration. We hope that through these awards we can motivate the future generation of DUT students to emulate this worthy example which has been set by the class of 2021,” said Mbanjwa.

Mrs Thobeka Shozi-Nxumalo from the Department of Student Governance and Development, spoke briefly about the journey of the VunaLA. She said when they started they did not even have a name for the Academy and had to open the naming competition for students and the name came from a student in the DUT Midlands. Shozi-Nxumalo said it did not end there, they invited the experts in the field of student leadership to assist them in developing the curriculum and content that they were going to deliver to students. She added that they needed to familiarise the students with the ENVISION2030, where they invited Prof Ashley Ross to educate the students on the strategy. She revealed that students were also encouraged to play a role in ensuring that the ENVISION2030 is realised.

First-year student from the Faculty of Management Sciences, Ms Anele Mkhize also shared her experience with the Academy and how it has made her transition from high school to the University a lot easier. Also expressing her gratitude to being afforded the opportunity to be part of the Academy was Ms Zamile Zulu, Netball Club Coordinator at DUT.

“The Academy has provided a space of reflection for student leaders. It has been as space where knowledge pertaining to student leadership practice and leadership at large has been for started. Since its inception, the programme attracted approximately 500 student leaders who have participated in conversations and debates about the status quo of higher education and our society. There have been debates about the changes student leaders wish to see. The conversations have been touching our core of being human beings. The human instinct principles that always effect positive changes,” said DUT Registrar, Dr Maditsane Nkonoane delivering his keynote address.

He continued to say that the ceremony celebrated students who, when there was uncertainty, came together with the University to forge solutions. Dr Nkonoane further stated that these are student leaders who have adapted during the most trying times of South Africa and KwaZulu-Natal. He further encouraged students to participate in different student leadership structures, as he feels DUT needs to cultivate a culture of student engagement.

Handing out the students’ awards were Ms Gugu Sacolo from the DUT’s Disability Rights Unit and Mr Bongani Yengwa from the Sports Administration Department at DUT.

The winners were:

  • Exemplary Leadership Award: Mr Silindokuhle Ndzalela
  • Agent of Change Award: Mr Lindokuhle Sibisi
  • Programme of the Year: Central Housing Executive (Vaccination Workshop and Candlelight)
  • Inclusion and Advocacy: Ms Samukelisiwe Sithole and Mr Philasande Hlomuka.
  • Leader without a Title or Position: Mr Kwanele Mxolisi Chonco
  • Inspirational Leader: Mr Sabelo Ngema
  • Salute to Loyalty: Mr Siphiwe Bekwa
  • Engagement Champion: Mr Lindani Nqobile Nene
  • Unmatched or Standout Performer: Miss Anele Mkhize
  • Most Determined: Ms Siphelele Mbele
  • Forever with Us: Mr Cebo Buthelezi
  • Unmatched Dedication: Mr Awonke Kufa

Delivering the closing remarks was Ms Makhosazane Thwala from the Department of Student Housing and Residence Life who extended her sincerest gratitude to all the students who attended the virtual ceremony, the speakers and the organising committee for their dedication and support in ensuring that the event becomes a huge success.

Pictured: Programme directors at the Vuna Leadership Student Awards, Mr Mpumelelo Shangase and Ms Lungile Ngcobo (Pre-COVID picture).

Simangele Zuma

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