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In its sixteen years of existence, Walter Sisulu University has played a crucial role in academically developing rural Eastern Cape; producing a skilled workforce and formidable community leaders who have gone on to hold positions in the highest echelons of government and corporate South Africa.

With four campuses located in Mthatha, Butterworth, Komani, and Buffalo City (East London), WSU caters for thousands of underprivileged school leavers who would have otherwise not had the opportunity to access higher education.

Historically, where other parts of the province had booming industries which gave employment to school leavers, the University of Transkei had to suffice as the factory which produced academics and scholars from the former Transkei region, who would later run and manage South Africa’s democratic government’s SOEs and ensure affirmative action was a success based on merit.

Amongst the university’s most notable alumni we can count, Nonkululeko Gobodo, the first black female Chartered Accountant in South Africa; former South African Auditor-General, Terence Mncedisi Nombembe; and Dr Ncumisa Jilata, who became Africa's youngest neurosurgeon at the age of 29.

Passing matric is the breaking of the long-awaited dawn for many black children and their families in the most remote parts of rural Eastern Cape, one of South Africa’s poorest provinces. It is undeniably true that for most South Africans, the road to economic freedom and development is only paved through formal tertiary education.

Formed in 2005 as a result of a merger between the University of Transkei (Unitra), Eastern Cape Technikon and Border Technikon, WSU has undergone major transformations, making it a major economic player in the region with an asset value of over R5 billion and an annual budget of over R1,4 billion.

The university boasts a total of 186 Academic Programmes, it is one of six comprehensive universities in South Africa, and currently has an enrolment total of just over 30 000 students.

Without an institution like WSU, thousands of school leavers would be left destitute as it would be impossible for them and their parents to bear the costs of relocating to other provinces where most universities are situated.

This was echoed by WSU Chairperson of Council and convocation president, Advocate Thembeka Ngcukaitobi who said“The fact of the matter is that if it was not for a university like Unitra, at the time, many of us would simply have not got a university education at all, either because we would not qualify academically or we would simply not be able to afford fees.”

Above producing remarkable alumni, the university has been a strategic partner of the EC provincial government and has been involved in many community upliftment projects, including the recently launched Microsoft Virtual Innovation Hub, a digital skills development initiative for rural Eastern Cape.

Speaking at the launch of the hub, current premier of the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane praised the University for its continued commitment to community building.

“I am encouraged that WSU is a strategic partner and we would love to see other institutions of higher learning participating and as active as WSU. Universities should no longer be ivory towers removed from the plights of our communities as we anchor our plans of research and development,” said Mabuyane.

In 2021, WSU bravely propels itself into the future under the leadership of its first female Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rushiella Nolundi Songca, guided by the university’s new vision of “An impactful, technology-infused African University.”

- Yanga Ziwele