A NEW Charter has been adopted by Health Sciences Faculty, signed by the Dean, Professor Nicky Padayachee, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Njabulo Ndebele, and Heads of Department and witnesses, at an historic Special Faculty Assembly, held last Thursday, May 9, at the Baxter Theatre Centre.
The new Charter includes the Faculty's acknowledgement of its past and presents a vision for the future. It was also an opportunity for the Faculty to present the new Declaration for Health Care Professionals. The seven-point Declaration will be recited by health care graduands at their graduation ceremonies and replaces the Hippocratic Oath and other declarations at UCT.
In his welcome address Padayachee said the assembly was "very significant" in the Faculty's history. "Today we openly acknowledge the things of our past that we are ashamed of. We acknowledge those brave individuals who made us proud, and more importantly, we adopt our Faculty Charter that will be the basis of institutional culture in the future.
"We would like to create an institution where everyone who chooses to study or work here will find an environment where they are able to realise their full potential and become active participants in the academic life of the Faculty," he added. "We hope that the Charter we adopt here this evening will serve as the basis of that new culture."
During his opening address Ndebele recalled how, on the eve of Health Sciences' 89th anniversary last June, the Faculty officially launched a Process of Reconciliation and Transformation. "During this process it (the Faculty) was to take a close look at and acknowledge its past, and work towards a better and more qualitative future for its members".
He said that during the past ten months the Faculty had engaged in a process of self-introspection, examining discriminatory acts towards black students and staff as well as acts of resistance to legalised discrimination during its long history.
"The Faculty genuinely acknowledged its role, both in allowing acts of discrimination and oppression, as well as its opposition to apartheid and the abuse of human rights through acts of bravery and by its members," he said. "With this special assembly today we witness the culmination of this process of self-examination and self-discovery." Ndebele added, however, that more work remained to be done, not only in the Health Sciences Faculty, but within the entire University. "Indeed, the process is a critical one for UCT to reflect on in its quest for a transformed institutional culture. No faculty or department should remain aloof from the implications of truth and reconciliation."
He added that the Charter's implementation was imperative. "It has to be brought about in a visible and effective way. In fact, some kind of mechanism may be necessary to monitor the implementation. Ultimately, we believe that events like this will help facilitate a change in the ethos of our business at UCT, sensitising staff and students to issues of human rights, diversity, discrimination, and ensuring that these concerns are integrated into our future teaching and research. This requires everybody's involvement and support for it to be truly successful," he concluded.
In his address, special guest Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, spoke of the importance of justice and truth in the process of forgiveness and reconciliation.