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October 22, 1998 - Representatives from half of South Africa's 37 universities and technikons met at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan from October 18-21 to discuss building academic partnerships with people from 70 U.S. colleges, universities, and community colleges and five institutions in Canada and Europe.
Naledi Pandor, Deputy Chair of the National Council of Provinces (the upper house of the South African Parliament) told the 240 conference participants that South African universities must seek ways to be engaged in the transformation of the whole society and that higher education partnerships should seek to meet this challenge as well. Listen to Pandor's Keynote Address (Real Audio, 28.8)
Teboho Moja, Special Advisor to the South African Minister of Education, challenged the paradigm of "internationalizing education" and argued instead for "globalizing education." It is necessary to acknowledge the inequalities between institutions of the North and South so that it is possible to move toward greater equity - by building partnerships based on mutuality, empowerment, and shared values.
The interest on the part of U.S. institutions in partnerships with South Africa is very high, but Colin Bundy, Vice Chancellor of the University of Witwatersrand, noted that institutions must ask why they wish to enter into a particular partnership agreement. They must be prepared to face the rapid change occurring in both South African higher education institutions and in South African society as a whole.
The importance of reciprocity between South African and overseas partners emerged repeatedly at the conference, entitled "Academic Partnerships with South Africans for Mutual Capacity Building."
Lou Anna Simon, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Michigan State University, described benefits that could accrue to U.S. institutions from partnerships with South Africa: "We want to join you as co-equal partners in conducting research and to train the next generation of post-graduate students - yours and ours - to address the pressing global issues that affect all of us. . . None of us can do this work alone, and we need an increasing coordination of our efforts."
Richard Fehnel, Ford Foundation representative in Johannesburg, suggested that partnerships between South African historically advantaged (white) and historically disadvantaged (black) institutions with foreign universities can dispel the conflict often described in South Africa between trying to meet the challenges of globalization and the challenges of reconstruction and development. Partnering institutions that succeed in addressing the challenges of development in South Africa will have a "global market" for their work because the problems of development that South Africa faces are common to most of the world.
Several case studies of existing partnerships were presented at the conference and demonstrated that there is no "one size fits all" model for U.S.-South African partnerships, as Betty Overton of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation pointed out. Some partnerships can be based on mutual benefits to both institutions, while others will be designed to address major needs of some historically disadvantaged institutions in such areas as undertrained staff and inadequate management.
Repeatedly, conference participants made analogies between a good partnership and a good marriage. Both require the partners to listen carefully to each other, to respond with seriousness, and to make a commitment.
Brian Figaji, Vice Chancellor of Peninsula Technikon (near Cape Town) and Chair of the Committee of Technikon Principals, challenged South African and overseas institutions to share more broadly the benefits of existing partnerships by such means as notifying nearby institutions of visitors with expertise.
Many participants, including representatives of funding agencies such as the Ford Foundation and W.G. Kellogg Foundation, urged that partnerships be organized through academic consortia of South African institutions. Noting that South Africa is in a powerful position within the region, Professor Jonathan Jansen, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the University of Durban-Westville, urged that partnerships involving South African and U.S. institutions also include an institution in another Southern African country.
Ensuring that the U.S. partners are diverse was urged by President William DeLauder of Delaware State University. He argued that it is important to include historically Black universities and colleges (HBCUs) in partnerships with South Africa because their experiences are similar. Important lessons can be drawn from the situation and development of both HBCUs in the U.S. and the historically disadvantaged institutions established for Black students during the apartheid era in South Africa. Sixteen HBCUs participated in the conference.
Conference Chair Moses Turner, Professor of Educational Administration at MSU, expressed satisfaction that conference participants felt that the objectives of the conference had been met, namely to assess the current status of academic partnerships and their strengths and weaknesses, evaluate new models of partnerships, and explore the financial realities of establishing and maintaining partnerships.
Three South African higher education associations co-sponsored the conference: the Committee of Technikon Principals, the Historically Disadvantaged Institutions Forum, and the South African Universities' Vice Chancellors' Association.
Michigan State University was the host and U.S. sponsor of the conference. More than 50 MSU faculty have developed working relationships with colleagues in South African higher education institutions. MSU also is developing a study abroad program with University of Durban-Westville in South Africa. The university has a long history of partnerships with universities in Africa, including extensive linkages with universities in Zimbabwe, Senegal, Nigeria, and Ethiopia.
MSU also announced a new website Resources on South African Higher Education for finding South African institutions, education organizations, transformation documents and debates, and government programs. U.S. government programs and study abroad opportunities in South Africa also are listed. The conference web site includes audio recordings of several speeches to the conference. [an error occurred while processing this directive]