Higher Education and Training Minister Naledi Pandor says the apartheid architects, who dreamt up a university for coloured people only and stuck it on the Cape Flats, could never have imagined their spirit and resilience.
She addressed guests at the unveiling of the University of the Western Cape (UWC) Community Health Sciences (CHS) building in Bellville yesterday.
Costing in the region of R244.622 million, the old 10-storey Jan S Marais Hospital was acquired by the university and transformed into a state-of-the-art health-care training facility.
Pandor said former National Party Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd must be turning in his grave to see this state-of-the-art facility, where future nurses and other health professionals would be trained.
“When I look around, I see a young and ebullient university that is flourishing through strategic expansion and outgrowing it’s apartheid footprint.
“Through prescient investments over the years, UWC is transforming itself into a multi-campus institution.
“UWC offers lessons for our universities and one of those lessons is that you don’t have to let your past determine your future,” she said.
Pandor said the national government had contributed R124.268m towards the cost and with capable leadership and the right support all universities could play a vital role in providing higher education to generations of young people.
UWC’s CHS building will house four nursing laboratories that simulate hospital ward environments, a rehabilitation gym for the occupational therapy and physiotherapy departments, and natural medicine laboratories with treatment rooms and dispensaries.
In addition, there are top-of-the-range computer laboratories, a staff canteen and multi-faith prayer rooms.
The building, in one of the Greater Tygerberg Partnership’s priority areas, will make an invaluable contribution to the urban renewal of the Bellville city centre.
UWC Rector and Vice-Chancellor Professor Tyrone Pretorius, said: “Our move to Bellville serves a dual role. The first is to strengthen the student experience by offering a facility conducive to enhanced learning, teaching, research and innovation. The move also allows UWC to be a catalytic agent for social change by being part of the reinvigoration of the Bellville CBD.”
Community Health Sciences dean Professor Anthea Rhoda recalled, as an alumnus of the university, how they were taught in sub-standard facilities during her studies as a physiotherapy student during apartheid.
“Despite the new building several classes will still take place on the main campus on Robert Sobukwe Road. Our new facility house nearly 2000 students, undergraduate and postgraduate, and now we have dedicated spaces for theory and practice, ” she said.
Rhoda said that for now the new facility was an educational training resource only, but hoped to offer health-care services in the near future.