Pretoria – Unisa has bid farewell to its stalwart academic and vice-chancellor Professor Mandla Makhanya, who has left the institution after 33 years of service.
During a farewell function this week, Makhanya said his love for academia remains close to his heart. “This is something that has never been replaced by anything else,” he told the audience of fellow academics.
Chairperson of Unisa council Mashukudu Maboa said as an academic, Makhanya navigated the academic project successfully: teaching and learning, research and innovation, academic citizenship and academic leadership.
He shaped his life as a scholar, the journey that saw him contribute to the growth of this great institution and rise through the ranks until he was appointed principal and vice-chancellor in 2011.
“I must emphasise, though, that while the chapter closes, the journey in pursuit of academic excellence will continue as Professor Makhanya surely still has a lot to offer both Unisa and the broader higher education sector, both locally, continentally and globally.”
Maboa added that Unisa was honouring a son of the university who had demonstrated nothing short of loyalty and commitment to the institution, and had been at the centre of its trials and tribulations.
“During his period of tenure, he touched and was also touched by many who interacted with him in one shape or another. In him, we have all gained a friend, a brother and a reliable ally in our quest to make Unisa a truly African university shaping futures in the service of humanity.”
Among the many responsibilities he had, Makhanya was the ex-officio member of the Unisa council. That required him to be an important link between the council and the university community, while being the lens through which the council saw and understood the university environment.
Maboa said Makhanya’s imprint went beyond Unisa as attested to by several positions he held and still holds in South Africa, continentally and globally.
He is, among others, past president of the International Council for Distance Education and until recently also treasurer of the African Council for Distance Education. He is also the president of the Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association, an international body.
Makhanya, in his speech, pointed out that Unisa paved the way for the breaking of the cycle of disadvantage and “otherness” that so many experienced, resulting in well-educated people who will build on new foundations of flourishing and responsible citizenship.
He said this ability to “change futures in the service of humanity” had not only applied to the students, but also to the staff.
“This is one of the main reasons for my abiding commitment to Unisa’s ongoing transformation.”
Makhanya has during his time at Unisa worked under four vice -chancellors. “I owe an immense debt of thanks and gratitude because they provided for me, my executive and extended management and our council, a sound and healthy platform and springboard for our own vision, articulation and implementation of a university in transformation – a university optimally shaped to serve our students.
“I have mentored many people and have watched with immense pride and satisfaction as they have moved on to lead successful lives and enjoy successful careers at various organisations including universities.
“Unisa being a university that serves humanity, I have mentored people beyond South African borders with similar outcomes. I doubt that there are many careers that offer that kind of job satisfaction,” Makhanya said.
It was with pride that he commented that in the past 10 years, Unisa has graduated the highest number of students in the history of the university.