/ 24 November 2023

Pioneering an African university 

Professor Thoko Mayekiso, UMP Vice-Chancellor.

UMP celebrates 10 years of trailblazing excellence

Situated in the heart of South Africa’s picturesque Mpumalanga province, the University of Mpumalanga (UMP) stands as a testament to a decade of academic excellence, community engagement and transformative growth. Established in 2013, the university has emerged as a beacon of higher education, making significant strides in shaping the future of the region and the nation. 

UMP celebrated its 10th anniversary in style in November, bringing together dignitaries, alumni, staff and students to mark a decade of trailblazing achievement at its state-of-the-art Mbombela campus. Founded in 2013 as one of the two new Universities in South Africa after the dawn of democracy, the celebrations reflected on UMP’s pioneering journey to become “an African University leading in creating opportunities for sustainable development through innovation”.

In her keynote address, Vice-Chancellor Prof Thoko Mayekiso spoke of the resilience required to establish a new institution: “When I took the leadership of UMP on 1 November 2014, I was acutely aware of the huge responsibility and privilege of being a pioneering leader at the newly established university. The enormity of the task did not escape me and my commitment to the pioneering role was unwavering. Our challenge was to give the country a sense of what a post-apartheid institution would look like. Creating a new society would require new institutions that would inculcate different habits and a new consciousness. We dare not fail.”

She highlighted UMP’s focus on excellence, global partnerships, and creating opportunities for students to become “innovative and entrepreneurial” graduates. 

A visionary goal 

The journey of the University of Mpumalanga began with a visionary goal — to provide accessible, quality education that empowers the local community and contributes to the national educational landscape. Over the past 10 years, UMP has translated this vision into reality, offering a diverse range of programmes that cater to the needs of a dynamic and evolving job market.

UMP iconic infrastructure.

This pioneering ethos has seen UMP grow from 169 students in 2014 to 8 400 today, with academic offerings expanding from three to 65 qualifications over the decade. Prof Mayekiso emphasised the breadth of UMP’s achievement across its teaching, research and community engagement missions. She cited the university’s two recent National Research Foundation awards in 2022 and 2023, recognising UMP as South Africa’s most improved research institution.  

The celebrations were attended by leading figures across politics, religion and higher education. In a congratulatory message by South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, delivered by Dr Nonzwakazi Maqubela, he commended the university for “advancing the values of our constitutional democracy” and bridging inequality through education. 

“As the first Chancellor of the University, I was privileged to witness the growth, from humble beginnings, of this young African university, which was among the first established in a free and democratic South Africa,” he said. “Unencumbered by the constraints of history, the university has forged its identity and defined its purpose as an instrument of transformation and progress.” 

He said UMP sets an example for every young South African, regardless of where they come from, to develop their potential: “True to our expectations, this young African university has become more than a seat of learning and a repository of knowledge. It has become a vital part of the social, cultural and economic life of this province.”  

Exceptional growth

Deputy Minister of Higher Education and Training Buti Manamela delivered a virtual address, praising UMP as one of “proudest achievements” of the democratic state, and part of the realisation of a long cherished dream to have at least one university in each of the nine provinces. “We are pleased to have delivered on this strategic objective.”  

He added that what had been achieved over the past 10 years was both impressive and commendable: “While 10 years may not be much in the life of a human being, in the life of a national institution, such as the university,10 years is a very, very long time. The fact that you’ve managed this, with the results that you’ve produced and with the kind of graduates that you have, means you are making an impact in our society and deserve all the support — and all the celebration!” 

He added that he was optimistic about the next decade, and “confident that the University of Mpumalanga will gradually grow to become one of our premier national institutions”.  

Flourishing in the niche

In her address, CEO of Universities South Africa Dr Phethiwe Matutu, reflected on the strides made over the past decade: “I’m one of the privileged few who were present 10 years ago at the inauguration of the first chancellor of the university. I recently attended a meeting on campus last month, and I could not recognise the university. In its 10 years of existence, UMP has carved out a unique and special place for itself.” 

While many universities might find operating in a predominantly rural province challenging, she commended UMP for finding its niche and distinguishing itself in this area: “For example, as tourism is booming in the province, the university trains hospitality students in its own comfortable, immaculate four-star hotel, with excellent cuisine on campus. We commend the university for its efforts to ensure access for academically deserving students, ensuring diverse and inclusive access to university education by students, particularly those from rural backgrounds. This university is a model from which other institutions can learn.”

Impact and commitment 

According to former SRC President Vuyelwa Magagula: “In the eyes of a student, the University of Mpumalanga offers a transformative journey filled with diverse experiences that extend well beyond the classroom. Through international exchanges and global competitions, we have delved into varied cultures, broadened our horizons, and ignited passion for innovation and collaboration.” 

Magagula praised the university’s unwavering commitment to global engagement, which “has instilled a broader perspective, making learning an adventure that shapes us into well-rounded, globally conscious individuals, paving the way for a future rich with uncharted possibilities.” 

Speaking at the 10 Year Anniversary Celebrations on behalf of Organised Labour, Dr Humphrey Khwidzili said: “There were many deliberations which were sometimes challenging, but such did not defocus us. We continued to focus on the bigger picture,  the University. Indeed, we have a good story to tell.” 

He commended the Vice-Chancellor for her role in the successes. “She has been a champion and a visionary leader for this milestone that we are celebrating today,” he said, adding that this was achieved through the support of the entire management, student leaders, UMP staff and organised labour. “We have built an excellent foundation for this University over the past 10 years. Those who will come and join us or come after us will have big shoes to fill. We aspire that they will be comforted by the strong foundation that we, as staff and students, have laid for them.”  

Looking ahead

As the University of Mpumalanga celebrates its first decade, it does so with a sense of accomplishment and a vision for the future. The next 10 years promise even greater strides in academic excellence, research innovation, and community impact. UMP stands as a model for universities aspiring to make a meaningful difference in their communities, proving that with dedication and vision, transformative change is not only possible but achievable.

In a landscape where education is the key to unlocking a brighter future, the University of Mpumalanga stands tall, shaping minds, transforming lives and leaving an indelible mark on the educational landscape of South Africa. “Building, cultivating and nurturing fully committed, deeply experienced teams is a lifelong mission,” Vice-Chancellor Mayekiso said, adding that the work was not yet done. 

She concluded by calling UMP’s first decade “unbelievably rewarding”, saying the university can enter its second decade “with a strong foundation, a clear vision and a fresh set of goals”. Judging by an impressive first 10 years of defying expectations, UMP certainly seems set to continue its skywards ascent.

UMP – Strong foundations laid

Reflections from the Vice-Chancellor Prof Thoko Mayekiso

As the University of Mpumalanga (UMP) marks its 10th anniversary this November, the institution has much to celebrate from a decade of trailblazing progress. Established in 2013 to increase higher education access in Mpumalanga province, UMP set out on an ambitious pioneering journey under the leadership of Vice-Chancellor Prof Thoko Mayekiso. 

UMP Vice-Chancellor Prof Thoko Mayekiso.

Its envisioning statement outlined these ambitions: “In a region thirsty for learning, UMP assumes a leadership role in providing the province and the country with academic avenues for advancement. The University endows its presence with the promise and potential of the region to confirm its rightful place in the knowledge economy of our country and continent.”

Those early steps focused on laying a strong foundation in UMP’s formative years — building infrastructure, recruiting talent, forging strategic partnerships and embedding the institutional culture. Guiding this was the strapline “Creating Opportunities”, capturing UMP’s commitment to transformation and empowerment. 

“We were conscious from the start that ours would be a pioneering journey,” Prof Mayekiso reflects. “As the Chinese proverb goes, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ My responsibility was to rally people around this dream.” 

Trailblazing challenges

But turning aspiration into reality was far from straightforward: “There is the saying in isiXhosa that ‘inyathi ibuzwa kwabaphambili’; and in Seswati, ‘indlela ibutwa ku labaphambili’, which means, ‘Directions on a path are sought from those who have already walked/travelled the path and have arrived at the destination’. As pioneers, we had to find the path ourselves. We had to stay the course through turbulence, storms and rough seas.”

 The VC admits the demands of trailblazing as a leader navigating a multiplicity of demands were not easy. As a female leader, the bumps were even more pronounced. “Patriarchy means leadership poses unique challenges for women. Yet I banked on passion and possibility,” she shares. “By modelling the realm of possibility and building trusted teams, we steered the ship together, fueled by passion and purpose.”  

Finance and infrastructure were two steep hurdles, resolved through government funding support and strategic partnerships. Resistance from sceptical local communities concerned about UMP’s agenda also surfaced initially. “We had to build trust that we are genuinely invested in the region’s growth,” Prof Mayekiso explains.  

Talent recruitment in the early stretch saw high staff turnover too. But the VC persisted in conveying UMP’s compelling vision to attract passionate pioneers. “By walking the talk on values like integrity and care, we forged an emotionally invested community,” she says.  

Laying the foundations 

The early years of pioneering to establish the University of Mpumalanga called for laying robust foundations to support future growth. UMP’s institutional vision and values provided cornerstones for its fledgling identity. As Prof Mayekiso notes: “Creating a shared sense of purpose and belonging was crucial for our staff and students to understand what we stand for.”

The vision of being “an African University leading in creating opportunities for sustainable development through innovation” provided an aspirational ethos. Ubuntu-inspired values like excellence, integrity, diversity and collaboration reinforced this.

Building an enabling infrastructure was another key priority. Prof Mayekiso recalls the expansive transformation of facilities inherited from the former Lowveld College of Agriculture campus.  “Our iconic new buildings provide a modern, inspiring environment that promotes academic excellence and social exchange,” she highlights.

UMP also focused on recruiting qualified staff who embodied its pioneering spirit. Stringent financial governance saw the university achieve nine consecutive years of clean audits -– a remarkable feat for a young institution.

By putting such building blocks in place during its foundational phase, UMP engraved core institutional strengths to now build its next decade of transformative education upon.

“We laid a firm base in those early years, so generations to come can join a thriving university primed for even greater heights,” Prof Mayekiso adds. 

UMP’s Mbombela campus.

Landmark achievements  

Gradually, the university stabilised and early milestones affirmed progress. Clean audits underscored financial integrity, growing academic offerings balanced depth and breadth, positive labour relations engendered goodwill and award-winning student clubs enhanced the learning experience.   

An inflated local job market meant high graduate unemployment initially, but commitment to entrepreneurial development and work-integrated learning boosted employability. “We had teething troubles, yes. But resilience and risk-taking are in pioneer DNA! Our graduates’ success kept inspiring us,” Prof Mayekiso explains.

A decade later, UMP’s pioneer credentials shine through a raft of achievements:

33 international partnerships spanning six continents

Student teams winning national competitions  

8400+ students currently enrolled  

4 400 graduates to date – many first-generation

Research output scaling new highs

Nine consecutive years of clean audits 

Cutting-edge infrastructure developments

Yet for Prof Mayekiso, the stories of lives impacted eclipse statistics.This is especially poignant, she adds, because many students over the years were first generation university students, both in their families and in their communities — and truly celebrated the new milieu. “Seeing our alumni thrive as new generation leaders across industries — that is our living legacy!” 

Future-focused reflections 

Prof Mayekiso says she often reflects on her words during her inauguration on 30 May 2015: “Pioneers have to build a firm foundation, mindful that what they are creating should be durable, marketable, sustainable and enduring. Generations yet unborn must find a thriving university, one they will be proud to join, because we who pioneered it, laid a firm foundation, and got into this immense project with body, mind and soul.”

She says these words spurred her and the team on and have since taken on a prophetic tone. “Look where we are today — exceeding all expectations. And it has been an amazing journey. As South Africans, we are also blessed to have the wisdom of Nelson Mandela, who famously said, ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’.”  

UMP’s first decade has been about putting sturdy stepping stones in place. Its second will be about confidently striding ahead to transform more lives through engaged, innovative education.

The next frontier  

With an eventful decade now behind it, the University of Mpumalanga has its gaze fixed firmly on the opportunities ahead as it enters its second innings. “We must build on the promise of an engaged, high-impact African institution serving local and global needs,” Prof Mayekiso says. “Our pioneering journey stands as inspiration to keep pursuing bold dreams with courage and conviction. Guided by our values, UMP’s best decade is undoubtedly ahead.”

Central to the blueprint is enhancing access and diversity. UMP is targeting ambitious enrollment growth from 8 400 currently to over 15 000 students by 2030.  

Prof Mayekiso envisions driving this expansion through the introduction of new vocational and postgraduate degrees in areas such as healthcare, technology and education. UMP also aims to boost research output and intensity across domains, working closely with industry and social partners. 

Despite immense progress already, Prof Mayekiso insists UMP is still only getting started. “As pioneers, we are still finding our own way. But the terrain ahead looks bright!”

However, amid the exponential growth, retaining UMP’s essence will be critical.

“Guided by our ethos around empowerment, ubuntu values and pioneering spirit — this is the lifeblood. Our journey must inspire us to pursue bold dreams with courage and conviction. Then UMP’s next decade will undoubtedly be its best!” 

From local to global excellence

UMP’s expanding reach and impact on a steady upward trajectory

The University of Mpumalanga (UMP) has steadily expanded its horizons over its first decade to boast a global outlook today. “We have spread our wings locally, nationally and worldwide through partnerships, networks and engaging scholarship,” Vice-Chancellor Prof Thoko Mayekiso highlights.  

Student enrollment numbers have multiplied in tandem from 169 to over 8 400. The university’s staff establishment mirrors this growth, increasing from 12 to around 600 today. More than half of the academic staff today hold PhDs, enabling high-impact interdisciplinary research.  

UMP’s programme and qualification offerings have ballooned from just three in 2014 to over 60 currently. This comprehensive bouquet — spanning higher certificates right up to PhDs — has attracted students from beyond South Africa’s borders too.  

UMP 2023 Graduation ceremony.

Reflecting its international links, UMP now hosts students from countries like Eswatini, Zimbabwe and even India pursuing its comprehensive range of accredited degrees. 

The university has also cultivated an extensive international partnership network spanning 33 institutions across six continents. “Over the past 10 years, we have established partnerships with 11 universities in Europe, four in North America, two in Australia, nine in Asia and nine in Africa.” These connections facilitate student and staff exchanges, collaborative projects and sharing best practices.  

Beyond borders

Prof Mayekiso says that as an engaged university, UMP places great value on partnerships, collaborations, linkages and networks “as both drivers and enablers in achieving our vision”. For this reason the university sought to establish north-south as well south-south partnerships, characterised by reciprocity and mutuality. “Spreading our wings and reaching out, locally, nationally, on the African continent and globally have been among the efforts we have expended to ensure that UMP grows and has credible partners.”

This has come with increased opportunities: “Our students have participated in international forums, where they did us proud, and have presented papers at national and international conferences. In December 2022, we sent four of our students to present at the One Health Conference at the University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine of Bucharest, Romania. Two of our students spent six months of a Study Abroad Programme at the FH JOANNEUM University of Applied Sciences in Austria.  This speaks volumes of our achievement.” 

Expanding reach and research excellence  

Back home, UMP’s facilities have concomitantly transformed over the years, from a handful of buildings inherited from the former Lowveld College site to a sprawling modern campus today with iconic new buildings, cutting-edge IT infrastructure and a hotel facility, which “provides experiential learning opportunities to students registered for the Diploma in Hospitality Management”. The University will be introducing the Diploma in Culinary Arts in 2024 and the students will benefit from exposure to the chefs at the hotel.

UMP’s investment in its sports facilities including its world class Tartan track underscores its sporting ambitions. 

But brick-and-mortar expansion has been matched by UMP etching its name as an emerging research powerhouse. Powering UMP’s advancing frontiers has been an intense focus on research productivity and excellence. “Our scholarship is responsive to local realities while upholding global standards,” Prof Mayekiso states.

In 2022 UMP was awarded two National Research Foundation (NRF) Excelleration Awards, which acknowledge South African research institutions that achieve the most improved research performance, excellence and acceleration.  

According to Prof Phindile Lukhele-Olorunju, Director of Research Management at the University of Mpumalanga, to win this title just two years after offering its first Master’s degree and a year after launching its first Doctoral programme is nothing short of astounding. “Being a young university, we have grown fast in terms of our research outputs as measured by the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET),” she explains. “Our results speak for themselves!” 

In 2023 UMP was awarded the National Research Foundation (NRF) CEO’s Special Recognition Award, which recognises a South African research institution that has previously won the Excelleration Award and has continued its progress and commitment to excellence in research performance.

Research partnerships with entities like the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) reinforce its growing reputation: “People may think other countries are superior or better at research or problem-solving, but we know this isn’t the case. The research community from South Africa and other African countries have proved themselves over and over again; you just need to look at the continent’s pandemic responses to know that. Our researchers and those in other African countries are working on indigenous knowledge systems, which will make our science more relevant to our local needs.”

Student-focused and socially engaged

Prof Mayekiso says the success of the ENACTUS (ENtrepreneurial ACtion) programme has been UMP’s pride. “To date, they have won 32 trophies in the national competition; in 2022 they came second out of the 21 higher education institutions that qualified for the competition.”

The competition encourages students to find innovative solutions to real-world problems: “This call to think out of the box and to create, innovate and become entrepreneurial is becoming embedded in the psyche of both staff and students. We have established the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Rapid Incubator to nurture and foster the entrepreneurial mindset in students, alumni and members of the community.  We want to produce graduates who are innovative and entrepreneurial.” 

The centre is already playing an important role in fostering a climate of entrepreneurship at the university. “We are promoting the integration of design thinking principles and methodologies into the curriculum, and the centre is providing a platform to test the viability of ideas, pitch to potential investors, grow business ventures and address challenges faced in the process,” Prof Mayekiso explains. “Through collaborative partnerships, the centre is fostering an ecosystem that supports social innovation and entrepreneurship by providing students, alumni and members of the community with access to mentors, funding and market opportunities.” 

Holistic student experiences

UMP’s choir placed first at a Choral Competition in Limpopo, also bagging the “Best Dressed” category: “We have put great emphasis on the attire of our students, because this is important to build the confidence of our students when they meet their counterparts from more established universities. Building self-confidence, modelling positive behaviour, providing psychological nurturance, building self-esteem and encouraging the development of what Angela Duckworth calls, ‘mental toughness’ are some of our attempts to provide an optimal environment for our students to self-actualise and become the best they can be.” 

UMP 2023 Graduation ceremony.

She adds that the impact of the Vice-Chancellor Scholarship Programme to the academic project and the lives of students cannot be measured. Since its inception in 2016 to date, UMP has awarded 220 scholarships covering full tuition, accommodation, meals, learning material allowance, monthly stipend, laptop and a Personal Development Programme.

These students form part of the cohort of students who started at first year level and are now at Master’s and PhD levels. Some of these students have been appointed as Academic Talent Stewardship Fellows and Associate Lecturers, a three-year developmental programme after which the Fellows will be appointed as permanent lecturers at UMP. “We introduced this programme in 2021 and we currently have 15 Fellows in this programme. We believe in ‘growing your own timbre’ and these are our proverbial timbre,” she explains. “They also serve to inspire other students to realise that the ethos of possibility is alive and kicking at UMP. This is clearly a worthwhile investment by the university.” 

Making an impact

While the numbers are impressive, Prof Mayekiso iterates that UMP’s proudest achievements are transformational human stories. With a pass rate between 80-85% and over over 4 000 graduates making their mark across sectors, UMP is delivering on its promise of empowering Mpumalanga’s youth. Many of our students, over the years, were first generation university students in their families and communities and truly celebrated the new milieu.

As UMP marks its 10th year seeded firmly in the local Mpumalanga soil, it has blossomed impressively to now nestle within a widening global scientific and educational ecosystem. Prof Mayekiso envisions UMP’s next decade will see it flourish further as an anchor institution advancing sustainable growth in its home province and beyond.

UMP 10-year anniversary speech

Justice Mandisa Maya, Chancellor of the University of Mpumalanga

Programme Director, Dean of Students, Dr Maminza; Deputy Minister for Higher Education, Science and Innovation, Mr Manamela MP; Member of the Executive Council for Education in the Province of Mpumalanga, Mr Majuba MP; His Majesty Makhosoke II Mabena of amaNdebele; Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mpumalanga, Professor Mayekiso; Chair of Council of the University of Mpumalanga, Mr Mahlalela; Archbishop Makgoba; Chief Executive Officer of the Universities of South Africa, Dr Matutu; Members of Council; Members of the Senate and Heads of Departments; Members of the academic staff; Former President of the Student Representative Council, Ms Magagula; and distinguished guests, good morning.

The 2023 Council of the University of Mpumalanga.

It gives me great pleasure to open this ceremony and, on behalf of the University of Mpumalanga, I welcome you all to this auspicious gathering at which we commemorate the 10th anniversary of this pioneering institution of higher learning. We are honoured and delighted to have all of you here with us. And I wish to extend an especially warm welcome to our esteemed guests, who generously accepted our invitation to address us today. Your presence here is a special privilege, and we are deeply grateful to you for having spared some of your valuable time to celebrate this momentous occasion with us despite your busy schedules. 

This ceremony marks a significant milestone for this young university which started its journey in August 2013. We take this opportunity to reflect upon and celebrate the culmination of a decade of extensive, collective efforts which greatly contributed to the rapid growth and success of this prestigious institution since its birth. 

The establishment of this university was a result of the shared commitment of our democratic nation to redress past inequalities and provide affordable, accessible, and achievable higher education to all South Africans. We know that education is a necessary tool to reshape and develop our communities. We also know that it is essential for institutions of higher learning to respond to the living conditions and needs of their communities to enable them to improve their socioeconomic circumstances and make a meaningful contribution to the country’s economic growth.

Over the years, the Mpumalanga province, which is the fourth smallest province in the country with a mostly rural character, had to contend with carrying the unfortunate mantle of having the second highest unemployment rate compared to other provinces. The young people of this province had to go far from home to access tertiary education, at great cost, while many of them lost out on life-building opportunities due to lack of funding and unemployment. It is for this purpose that this university was established — to address the challenges relating to access to basic services by the youth from rural and disadvantaged backgrounds, and to help strengthen the economic and cultural development of the Province of Mpumalanga. 

Despite being one of the youngest universities in the country, this institution has made remarkable strides in creating a trailblazing centre of knowledge and education and producing exceptionally skilled leaders. Its enrollment has increased from 169 students in 2014 to 8 432 in 2023. From offering just three undergraduate programmes in 2014 to its inaugural students, today the institution has 65 accredited academic offerings, including four Doctoral Degrees in Agriculture, Humanities, Philosophy (Commerce) and Philosophy in Development Studies, 13 Master’s Degrees and 22 other postgraduate qualifications. As part of its vision to be an African university that is responsive to its environment, in 2022, this institution launched a Master’s degree in isiSwati language and literature, following the offering of a Bachelor of Arts Honours in isiSwati in 2021. The staff complement increased from 12 in 2014 to 595 in 2023, with 52% of the academic staff members holding Doctoral Degrees. Just under 5 000 (4 485) students have graduated since the establishment of this institution. Through innovative learning techniques and career-focused programmes, our students are achieving their goals and our alumni are making a positive impact in their lives and in their communities. 

UMP Chancellor, Justice Mandisa Maya.

The expansion of this university’s infrastructure in just 10 years has produced a fully functional world-class institution consisting of two campuses, student residences and various support facilities, a hospitality and tourism building with a high quality training hotel and a training restaurant, a student wellness centre and clinic, science research facilities and IT laboratories, a server and security building, an archive and academic building and student pavilions. Very importantly, these developments have created employment opportunities for many locals, thus contributing to local economic development. 

This monumental beacon of hope continues to grow and has firmly positioned itself among its peers as a powerful institution which responds to socioeconomic challenges. What it has accomplished in a short space of time has exceeded many expectations, and I daresay even its own, and its growing prowess is amply evidenced by the applications in excess of 210 000 which it received for this academic year as it continues to attract young and old South African and international students beyond the boundaries of this province, in droves. 

But the road to this proud moment has not been without challenges. The #FeesMustFall campaign, the student-led protest movement that erupted in late 2015, had a significant impact on higher education in South Africa. The fight for affordable education by the students, which the protest was about, led to the violent interruption of academic activities across the country’s universities, including this one. Notwithstanding the academic shutdown that occurred during a critical time of the academic year, when the campaign was successful in halting fee increases, this university managed to work with the students to recover the time they had lost in their academic schedule. 

Then came what we all believed was the Armageddon, the Covid-19 pandemic, which had a devastating impact on all human life, not least tertiary institutions, which were forced to abruptly adapt various strategies in order to sustain the academic project; strategies which included the implementation of emergency remote teaching and learning, finding alternative ways to support students while the staff members were working from home and the reallocation of budgets to address the emerging needs.  

It was mostly the students that bore the brunt as they were moved out of their residences and some could not travel back home because of financial difficulties and had to learn new learning techniques in addition to the content of their subjects while having limited to no access to study resources. But again, despite the unprecedented difficulties experienced in higher education due to the pandemic and the associated lockdowns, this university, through creativity, sheer determination and doggedness, was able to successfully complete its academic year both in 2020 and 2021. 

Milestones such as this anniversary do not only afford us an opportunity to look back in reflection, but they also encourage us to look ahead and plan for a better future. The world is constantly evolving and many challenges and opportunities lie ahead. This is a moment for us all to reaffirm our pledge to ensure the success of this university. 

It is a time to drive the message harder to our youth, in this age of deeply entrenched corruption and mindless materialism and consumerism, in which many people no discernible skills of any kind and who have little or no education at all, own all the shiny trappings which are attractive to the young and leads them to question why they should toil in school if it is possible to get money and all these nice things without an education and any sense of integrity, that an education remains a critical tool for true self-advancement and meaningful human development and to stay in school. And through joint effort, commitment and lateral thinking we will achieve the mission of this institution. These values are after all what has sustained it and propelled it to where it is today.

May I take this opportunity to thank the intrepid Vice-Chancellor Mayekiso and her team and all the partners of the University of Mpumalanga who have worked tirelessly every single day of the past decade to ensure that this trailblazer delivers on its mandate efficiently and seamlessly. I also take this time to express my own deep sense of pride and gratitude to this university for the privilege of being a member of this community of over-achievers. 

Heartiest congratulations and all the very best for the future to our beloved University of Mpumalanga. 

Thank you.