20 September 2013
South Africa is about to start building its first new university since 1994. The Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley in the Northern Cape will welcome its first students in 2014, marking a milestone in the transformation of education in the country.
Construction of the R6-billion university is set to start this month and is expected to be completed by 2015.
Speaking at the official launch of the university on Thursday, Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande said the institution would be “a powerful symbol of the country’s democracy, inclusiveness and growth.
“Sol Plaatje University is an integral part of government’s programme of expanding access to higher education and growing knowledge production and the innovation capabilities of our nation,” he said.
The university is expected to enrol about 5 000 students, starting with about 150 students during the first intake in January 2014.
Lecturers and students will have access to the most advanced communications platforms and processes, with well-equipped libraries, knowledge resources and laboratories forming part of the university’s research and scientific infrastructure to support its niche areas of specialisation.
According to the Department of Higher Education and Training, one of the university’s specialisations will be heritage studies, including interconnected academic fields such as museum management, archaeology, indigenous languages and restorative architecture.
Intellectual, journalist, linguist, politician, translator and writer Sol Plaatje (1876-1932), whom the university is named after, was the author of Mhudi (completed in 1920, published in 1930), the first novel by a black South African.
He was also a prominent campaigner for the rights of black people, and a founder member and first general secretary of the South African Native National Congress, which would become the African National Congress (ANC).
Sol Plaatje is one of two new universities being developed in the country – work is also under way on Mpumalanga University, which will have campuses in Nelspruit and Siyabuswa.
South Africa currently has 23 universities. These include six universities of technology, which focus on vocationally oriented education, six comprehensive universities offering a combination of academic and vocational diplomas and degrees, and 11 traditional universities offering theoretically oriented university degrees.
However, none of these is located in either Mpumalanga or the Northern Cape, making these the only provinces in the country that are not home to a university.