19/03/2018 16:32 SAST | Updated 20/03/2018 09:16 SAST

Let's Work Towards Transformation With Professor Phakeng

UCT's new vice-chancellor can lead the way, but she'll need support to see this dream realised.

Lucky Nxumalo/ City Press / Gallo Images
Phakeng is the first black woman to obtain a doctorate in mathematics education in South Africa. She has just been appointed vice-chancellor at the University of Cape Town.


The appointment of Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng as vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT) has met with welcome approval both on and off social media. But it comes as no surprise, considering her stellar track record as uBabes weMathematics.

Phakeng has held the position of deputy vice-chancellor at two universities – Unisa and UCT – for the past seven years, at UCT for the past two of those. She was also a member and president of the executive committee of convocation at Wits University for five years. Phakeng is a highly regarded B2 NRF-rated scientist with more than 80 research papers and five edited volumes published to date.

The prof, who true to her nature goes by the Twitter handle @FabAcademic, embodies the qualities of womandla (woman power) and walks the talk and lives the principles of a dedicated leader in her field. She is always ready to engage on issues of transformation in academia, and applies herself to the grunt work of ensuring that black women are not only represented, but that they have a seat at the table and make real change in their fields.

While many are in celebratory spirits over Phakeng's appointment, no doubt excited for what the future holds in terms of transforming institutions of higher learning, or academia, this responsibility comes with a lot of pressure.

We need to be realistic when it comes to our expectations regarding the results Phakeng can deliver. Often, those who carry a torch for someone are the same people who then turn around and burn them. There will undoubtedly be high expectations – as there should be – but we must not be too quick to expect decades of conservatism to be brought down in mere months.

We live in an era of immediacy and want things to happen now, so once the euphoria abates, there will be demands for immediate change. But let's not forget that there are procedural impediments to making things happen. As the old adage goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day". As such, we need to come together and agitate collectively towards the change we want to see in our institutions and our public office.

Yes, Phakeng will be charting this course for change and renewal, but the onus is on each and every one one of us to pull together to see this dream realised.

Igama lamakhosikazi malibongwe ✊🏾 #PhakamaPhakeng 🎓.