A new home has been built at Stellenbosch University (SU) to accommodate the increasing number of activities around its HIV and AIDS projects and growing student numbers.
The new building allows the Africa Centre to broaden its scope in terms of teaching and learning, research and community interaction relating to the HIV and AIDS pandemic, substance abuse, woman and child health issues and other social issues plaguing our country and the world. The historical site the Africa Centre is built on was known as 'Die Vlakte' and was where coloured people were forcibly removed from during the apartheid years.
At the opening event, Professor Bongani Khumalo delivered the keynote address on behalf of President Jacob Zuma. Representatives from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) also attended the opening of the new facility.
The Africa Centre offers comprehensive HIV and AIDS postgraduate academic training programmes, as well as community mobilisation programmes, which include interactive educational theatre to create awareness about HIV and AIDS prevention. It forms part of SUs HOPE Project, a campus-wide initiative through which the university uses its knowledge and research to address societal challenges in Africa.
It is the fourth new building to be opened this year as part of the HOPE Project. A fifth building, the Ukwanda Rural Clinical School in Worcester opened on 25 October.
With its modern façade and bright red accent walls, the new building for the Africa Centre looks like no other building on campus. And that was the intention, says Prof Jan du Toit, Director of the Africa Centre.
“Our courses in HIV and AIDS management do not really fit into a specific faculty and are designed to address social issues in an interdisciplinary way. Also, our student profile looks different from the rest of campus: We have 99% black students, 60% women, the average age is 43 years, and the students come from 27 different countries, and they are all postgraduates who focus broadly on one topic: HIV and AIDS,” says Du Toit.
The Africa Centre therefore needed a space that accommodates and portrays this diversity. Their previous home, in the Industrial Psychology Building, could not fulfil their needs anymore.
“I believe we personify hope by addressing the ills of the past and presenting courses which bring hope for a better life through education. But this new facility also makes it possible for our students to come to Stellenbosch and have a space where they can work and extend their research activities. We can now present seminars and short courses here and our educational theatre team has its own rehearsal room. It is a pleasure to work and operate in our new offices. It is indeed a delight to arrive at our workplace and to see how happy and proud staff members are. We are grateful and honoured to be in such a practical, useful and beautiful building.” says Du Toit.
Prof Russel Botman, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, said: “It is great to see our strategy for creating 21st century learning, living and work spaces taking shape. Through the HOPE Project, Stellenbosch University is well positioned to change the world. This building is a good example of what is needed – not only bricks and mortar but hope in action”.