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Bread sparks conversations

- By Buhle Zuma

 The tables, neatly laid with bread and bottles of Appletiser appeared on the Piazza outside the Great Hall just before lunchtime on Tuesday. Students hovered around pointing curiously at the setting – is this a continuation of Women’s Day which the country celebrated on Sunday? Is it a pop-up restaurant? The tables and chairs stood invitingly.

With the crowd growing, Prof. Tawana Kupe the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Advancement, Human Resources and Transformation, egged the crowd to sit down and break bread with fellow Witsies.

And this is how 100 members of staff and students, sat down around tables to talk about their experiences of transformation with individuals whom, perhaps, they would never strike a conversation with in their day-to-day lives.

This event was orchestrated by the Wits Transformation and Employment Equity Office along with multiple stakeholders as part of the University’s Inclusiveness Week (IWeek). IWeek is a direct response to a call for universities to host events focusing on equality. This call was issued by the organisation Universities South Africa formerly known as the Higher Education South Africa.

Introductions in various languages could be heard, while discussions spilled across tables, in the first of what is envisaged to be an annual event promoting inclusivity across race, religion, gender, culture and rank at Wits.

Kgolagano Moshotlhwa a third year BSc in construction studies welcomed the initiative. “Interaction across lines does not happen always voluntary and sometimes people need to be coerced to step out of their spaces. Wits should have more academic and social events of this nature to promote inclusiveness and transformation.”

In his brief address, Prof. Adam Habib, Wits Vice-Chancellor and Principal remarked that the symbolic event kicks of a new phase on transformation at Wits. Habib said the University would issue a communique this week highlighting eight priority projects with respect to transformation. These range from curriculum reform, transformation of academic staff, student residences, and institutional culture amongst others.

The event though brief lasting only 45minutes achieved its purpose. At the end of lunch hour, people could be seen exchanging numbers before hurrying to the next class while others lingered to continue with their emanated debates. Barriers were broken, indeed.

Ironically, this setting took place against a background of graffiti written “Biko Suffocates Here”, signalling the need for ongoing dialogue.

Upcoming IWeek events:

 

Pregnancy rules in residences

Are rules around pregnancy in residences discriminatory or necessary? Join the debate on Thursday, 13 August at 13:15 in Senate House.

Cultural exhibition

Discover new food, music and dance at this event on Friday, 14 August at 12:15 on the Piazza outside the Great Hall.

 
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