Through scholarship, community-based research and student action, the University of Cape Town (UCT) continues to develop the passion for supporting vulnerable communities in South Africa and across the continent.
As we emerged from the restrictions of the pandemic in 2022, we became even more aware of the many challenges that beset South Africans who struggle just to survive each day. A good number of UCT students grew up in these struggling communities. To grow as a nation, we need to help provide our disadvantaged neighbours with the means to build a better life – for themselves and their children.
UCT continues to rise above those challenges, by graduating future leaders who have the education and will to meet those needs. What makes this achievement most exciting is that so many of these future leaders grew up observing first-hand the kinds of problems that need their creative solutions. We see the passion of these students and graduates in the ways they apply their knowledge to community needs; in their eagerness to volunteer in local schools and health initiative outreaches; and in the commitment of alumni to make their lives count for the welfare of others.
UCT is more than a world-class institution. It is also a community of academics, students and professionals who share the central mission of the university’s Vision 2030 strategic plan: to unleash human potential to create a fair and just society.
To achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, humanity needs to enable the power of each individual to make positive changes in their lives and their local communities. This requires us to reach beyond our personal comfort zones and discover how much we have in common with those who live on the brink of disaster.
Social responsiveness is such a high priority among UCT researchers that the university bestows a Social Responsiveness Award every year as its highest honour. Their achievements rise from a critical combination of scholarship as well as compassion. They work closely with community leaders to establish trust, to listen and to understand people’s needs. They train and equip community members to assist their neighbours and to pass on essential knowledge and understanding of the problem to be addressed. And they give agency to these community members to help lift themselves and others up.
What makes UCT formidable as a university is not just its distinguished history, its superb facilities or its respected international reputation; it is the passion that guides academics and students alike to address real issues of the day, side by side with those who are directly affected by those issues. Such passion is contagious. It is spreading far beyond the boundaries of UCT. That is what makes this university so important to South Africa.
Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe
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