Unpacking leadership at this year’s future-focused Trans-gariep leadership programme

In July 2023, the SPU Division of Student Affairs, along with the University of Cape Town (UCT) and Stellenbosch University (SU), presented a successful iteration of the Future-Focused Trans-Gariep Leadership programme in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, and Kimberley.

The programme took place from 2 -12 July 2023 and immersed its participants in an enriching exploration of leadership development from various perspectives including inward reflection through the Agenda of the Soul, a renewed perspective in leadership through a transformative student experience and leadership in action through future-focused leadership.

The initiative commenced at the University of Cape Town from 2-5 July 2023, during which time students were introduced to the traits and practices of inclusive and broadened leadership. The curriculum also encompassed aspects of cultural intelligence and competency, along with critical diversity, all underpinned by an emphasis on self-discovery and soul-searching.

Next up, the programme moved to Stellenbosch University from 5-8 July 2023. This segment of the programme underscored the importance of exposing students to multicultural and diverse student-life environments. Participants were taken on an enlightening tour of Stellenbosch, where they examined historical landmarks and soaked in the cultural vibrancy of the town. This outdoor learning experience helped the students to connect self-discovery to community development, thereby broadening their leadership capabilities by transforming their perspective of leadership within the context of Stellenbosch as an old colonial town.

The last leg of the programme took place from 9-12 July 2023 and was hosted at Sol Plaatje University (SPU) on the South Campus in Kimberley. This part of the programme featured an interactive presentation on values-based leadership, which included an interactive presentation and facilitation on the core tenets of values-based and servant leadership, the significance of humility and self-management in leadership roles, and the importance of community outreach engagement as part of SPU’s ethos in incorporating community engagement as a scholarly activity.

The students were warmly welcomed by dignitaries such as the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Sol Plaatje University, Professor Andrew Crouch who underscored the importance of being mindful, compassionate, and transparent leaders in his opening remarks. Also present were Sol Plaatje Municipality Mayor, Honourable Kagisho Sonyoni, and the Senior Manager: Student Life and Development, Mr Buntu Mnyaka. The programme also had the privilege of being addressed by Ms Nompendulo Mkatshwa, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Higher Education, Science and Innovation who participated in the two-day long Parliamentary Civic Education Programme, which formed part of the Future-Focused TransGariep Leadership Programme.

Community engagement was further fostered as a scholarly activity and a key reflective exercise in the programme when students participated in an immersive outreach initiative. Participants were divided into groups, each offering aid at designated old age and children’s homes, thereby experiencing first-hand the impacts of their leadership skills on real-world scenarios.

The concluding days of the programme, hosted at the SPU South Campus Hall, integrated the Parliamentary Civic Education Programme, a result of collaboration with Parliament South Africa. This service-oriented learning programme offered the students an experiential learning opportunity focused on public education, participation, and understanding of the role of Parliament. This included an introduction to parliamentary procedures, site visits to Kimberley Boys High School, the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe Hospital, The Northern Cape TVET College and the Galeshewe SAPS. Included in this programme was also an immersive exercise in a mock plenary parliamentary session at the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature, with oversight of this part of the programme by the Speaker of the Legislature, Hon Newrene Klaaste. The programme concluded with students being tasked with comprehensive feedback reports, which will be tabled for public discussion at both Parliament and the Northern Cape Legislature through their Public Education Offices.

The students also went on a scenic sightseeing tour of the City of Kimberley, in enhancing the cultural diversity management ethos of the programme. Sight-seeing excursions included visits to the Big Hole, the McGregor Museum, and the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre, where students engaged with the rich history of rock art and San Culture in South Africa. Following this, students were taken on a fun Outdoor Experiential-Related Learning exercise in fostering social cohesion and team-building initiatives.

The programme concluded with a cocktail function at the SPU South Campus Hall, where Ms Nicole Morris, the Dean of Student Affairs, articulated the varied experiences and learning outcomes emanating from the programme in her keynote address. The Dean expressed the reflective journey undertaken by the students by expanding on the three Rs of their reflective journey at the University of Cape Town namely Rekindle, Rehabilitate and Radiate towards flourishing “ad infinitum” (to infinity), the transformative student experience in Stellenbosch and the practical learning component towards future-focused leadership at Sol Plaatje University. In closing off her speech, the Dean articulated three key messages centred on finding the soul, transforming oneself through inward reflection and remaining steadfast in one’s leadership journey towards future success.

Overall, the 2023 Future-Focused Trans-Gariep Leadership Programme was a seminal event for the participating universities and their students, offering comprehensive and transformative learning experiences focused on diverse and inclusive leadership. In doing so, it also highlighted the potential of our future leaders to be agents of change in society.

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