Pretoria – The new Thabo Mbeki School of Public and International Affairs at Unisa will strive to produce graduates who aspire to bring about positive changes in societies through creative research.
This was the sentiment expressed by speakers during a virtual event to launch the school named after the former president Thabo Mbeki.
The former head of state, who was one of the speakers, said the school must position itself as a home of excellence in terms of producing the type of students who would be instruments of change.
“Our students should be encouraged to be thinkers and doers rather than accumulators of facts and recipients of knowledge,” he said.
He impressed on other participants that universities should be philosophical thought centres of society and produce graduates with knowledge to question everything.
“The school must strive to serve as a philosophical thought centre of society to join the next generation of thinkers who would learn how to question everything in order to create new knowledge; men and women who would be critical and creative. It must produce thinkers and doers at the various levels of learning,” Mbeki said.
He said that tertiary institutions should be able to contribute solutions to eradicate unemployment, which was one of the challenges facing students. “It is our business in tertiary institutions to look into causes of unemployment and see how we can counter them.”
He further advised the school to source experienced scholars from elsewhere in the world.
Head of the school, Professor Sibusiso Vil-Nkomo, said that the creation of such a school was long overdue.
Its curriculum would focus on the development challenges of society, search for new knowledge and ideas, and provide usable knowledge.
Vil-Nkomo said the school would be at the forefront of logic of invention and discoveries.
It would also generate knowledge that would bring about efficiencies and effectiveness in the public sector post Covid-19.
Its area of study included citizenship and development, public leadership studies, peace and development studies, the study of government affairs, urban and regional affairs, security and intelligence studies, and sustainable livelihood and resource management.
The graduates can follow careers as public officials, policy analysts, foreign service officers, economic advisers, elected officials, ambassadors and researchers.
The school will offer a Master’s degree in public and international affairs, which was hailed as the first in South Africa.
It will also offer a doctoral study programme consisting of theses that make an original contribution to public and international affairs.
Students are required to write a thesis and present it under supervision.
Principal and vice-chancellor Professor Mandla Makhanya said the school was aimed at producing knowledge practitioners who would be “changing the space where we live”.