Human Settlements Minister Tokyo Sexwale has launched the country’s first Chair for Education in Human Settlements Development and Management at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.
The launch of this four-year Bachelor’s Degree in Human Settlements is expected contribute a significant body of knowledge towards finding solutions to tackle the challenges facing the sector.
The degree will also ensure that graduates who enter the profession understand the key issues and debates in the sector and are competent to implement policies and solutions.
Speaking at the launch last month, Minister Sexwale said the provision of adequate shelter has been one of the challenges the world over has been battling to meet in a quest to satisfy people’s basic needs such as housing.
“Regrettably, across the world, the struggle to achieve these fundamentals remains elusive to many millions of people out of the total population of humanity’s seven billion inhabitants,” he said.
The Department of Human Settlements bore the responsibility of ensuring that the more than 12 million South Africans had access to adequate housing as provided for by the country’s Constitution.
He added that the establishment of segregated settlements under apartheid only achieved the “evil objective of dehumanising society by creating racialised residential areas”.
“Therefore the biggest challenge confronting the Department is to root out this scourge, and to establish deracialised residential spaces in villages, suburbs, towns and cities of our country. In a word, the humanization of human settlements,” said Minister Sexwale.
“A University is more than a place of learning. It also offers space for thinkers. It is for the generation of ideas. Its universality is characterised by discussions and debates, discourses and dialogues, all aimed at weighing and analyzing options to find solutions,” he said.
“The introduction of a degree of Bachelor of Human Settlements Development Management creates academic opportunities, beyond debates and discussions for serious formal scholarly discourse, research, specialist knowledge skills and development for sustainable Human Settlements in South Africa.
“It provides scope for students to develop into professionals in this field. It prepares the graduate student to rejoin society as a thought leader and a change agent in the concrete reality of life outside the institution,” said Minister Sexwale.
“We are pleased to note that, the structure of the Human Settlements Development Degree course is designed in a way that is organic and evolutionary, bearing in mind that in our fast changing world of high technologies, particularly informatics, the course offered may have to adapt to new demands from time to time,” he said.
Matriculants and those interested in specialising in human settlements at a university level will be able to study for this degree at NMMU from 2014.
The university’s Vice-Chancellor Prof. Derrick Swartz also applauded the launch of the Chair saying it would help finding solutions for South Africa’s problem. “Unless we solve the problem of mass urbanisation, the quality of our democracy would be diminished:.
Speaking at the launch, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s Professor Kobus van Wyk, the head of the degree programme at the university described the initiative as a dream coming true. “Have you ever dreamt a dream for 20 years and it comes true. This has one major aim, that is to improve people’s lives”.
Prof. Van Wyk added that the decision to initiate the degree came after a careful consideration and realisation that South Africa needed a focused intervention if the country was to effectively deal with the issues of poverty and homelessness.
He said international research had indicated that about 8-million of the 1.2-billion people living in informal settlements or slums in the world were in South Africa. “I hope that this degree, with the body of knowledge that we will share, will somehow make a huge contribution,” he said.
He said wide consultations had been undertaken with about 25 stakeholders in the human settlements sector as well as higher education institutions.
The Bachelor’s Degree in Human Settlements will also at a later stage also be offered at the University of Fort Hare and University of South Africa (UNISA).