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.
Breaking News:#UCT has just announced that it has hired a black woman, Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng as the Vice-Chancellor and not as a domestic worker as suggested by Magda.— Lukhanyo Vangqa (@LukhanyoV) March 17, 2018
Phakama Phakama Mbokodo 🤷🏿♂️🤷🏿♂️🤷🏿♂️ pic.twitter.com/07unYVk2jH
This should be trending! Supreme congratulations Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng, mathematics educator and researcher announced as new Vice Chancellor for University of Cape Town. 📷 UCT pic.twitter.com/NYUXs4ROwO— Ulrich J van Vuuren (@UlrichJvV) March 17, 2018
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.
I'm so worried that UCT will break Phakeng's heart. Wear her down. She's coming in as a fighter. As a society let's help make sure she leaves as a fighter. By holding gov accountable for access to education.— Yoli (@aNameToCarry) March 17, 2018
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 🎓.