Warm the brain at UCT’s virtual Winter School

14 July 2021 | Story Helen Swingler. Photo RODNAE Productions / Pexels. Read time 6 min.
UCT’s Winter School can be enjoyed from the convenience of your home.
UCT’s Winter School can be enjoyed from the convenience of your home.

Bookings are open for the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) Winter School, a seven-day programme, which will run from 24 to 31 July and will feature several prominent presenters. These include Professor Salim Abdul Karim and Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, leading epidemiologists in the fight against COVID‑19, and former Public Protector Professor Thuli Madonsela.

UCT’s Winter and Summer Schools are managed by the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies (EMS) under the umbrella of the Development and Alumni Department (DAD).

“The calibre of presenters is a testimony to the way the programme is valued,” said Vice‑Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

“Recent efforts by EMS to increase participation and create new audiences via online platforms and live streaming aligns to UCT’s Vision 2030 pillars of excellence, sustainability and transformation.”

Given COVID-19 restrictions, Winter School – like Summer School 2021 earlier this year – will be virtual and delivered on the Microsoft Teams platform. This has numerous benefits and allows its offerings to be enjoyed by a much wider audience across the world (as was the case for Summer School and the webinar programmes the school has offered throughout the year).

Wide variety on offer

This year’s Winter School has three categories of programme: arts and humanities; history, philosophy and contemporary studies; and science, conservation and medicine. These offerings are carefully curated by Dr Medeé Rall, the director of EMS, and EMS lecturer Dr Zuleiga Adams.


“It is vitally important … to do scholarly research to ascertain what could be presented as high‑level courses.”

“Mostly we approach lecturers and invite them to offer courses based often on new research that is being done at the university and elsewhere, for example the two lectures on COVID-19, on current events and issues of consequence,” said Dr Rall.

“We do also have lecturers approach us with suggestions for courses and we draw on evaluation forms completed by participants for course suggestions. It is vitally important for Zuleiga and myself to do scholarly research to ascertain what could be presented as high‑level courses. We also keep an eye open for new publications and approach authors to discuss their research, such as the lectures on pangolins and COVID‑19, based on a recent book by Richard Peirce.” 

In the first category participants can look forward to “Introduction to African Cinemas”, presented by Dr Litheko Modisane; and “Perspectives on the Peopling of the Cape”, with Patric Tariq Mellet.

In the second category, courses that catch the eye are “The Constitution and Social Justice: Why should you care?”, with Professor Madonsela, and “Fourth Industrial Revolution: South Africa’s education crisis”, presented by Professor Tshilidzi Marwala.

Tapping into alumni

Their association with DAD has benefitted the Summer and Winter School programmes significantly, said Rall, with attendance numbers reflecting that.

“We have the advantage of access to the alumni database, which has made it possible to reach literally 10 times more people than we would with our own mailing list. But most importantly, we can now reach all UCT’s alumni on the database.”

This has seen an increase of around 30% of Summer School participants in the past being alumni to 59% at Summer School in 2021.

“We are also able to work closely with alumni relations colleagues around marketing our programme on their social media and other platforms,” said Rall. “And finally, we can reach Legacy Society members and, in collaboration with DAD, are able to offer a 5% discount to all members.”


“People are needing intellectual stimulation during this difficult and insecure time we are living in.”

Acting executive director at DAD, Sidney van Heerden, added: “Since EMS has been incorporated into DAD, we have seen a significant increase in the number of new participants from across the world, testimony to the fact that people are needing intellectual stimulation during this difficult and insecure time we are living in.

“The other courses and webinars that EMS have been offering since April last year have all been very well attended, again attesting to the need for learning and staying abreast of current affairs and debates – and to having intellectual stimulation.”

Van Heerden continued: “The online learning platform has had many advantages for the transformation work EMS is doing as they can now reach audiences in communities they have not been able to reach before in venues with Wi-Fi and connectivity where people without this facility can listen to lectures. It makes it possible to bridge the digital divide.”

He said that EMS would be “putting a lot of effort” into working with organisations to spread the reach of both the Summer and Winter School programmes, as well as other courses and webinars.

“A lot of credit for facilitating this endeavour must go to UCT master’s student Lindokuhle Patiwe, with whom EMS staff have been working for some time now. He will be facilitating the session, ‘Meditations from the Gutter’ in the Winter School programme. At this book launch, the author Molaodi Wa Sekake will be in conversation with Dr Lwazi Lushaba of [UCT’s Political Studies] department.”

Bookings are open on Webtickets. Questions about the Winter School can be directed to ems@uct.ac.za or phone on +27 21 650 2634.

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