University of Johannesburg: UJ honours pioneers of social justice and civil rights activists during the 2021 graduation ceremonies

Anti-apartheid activist Ms Sophia Williams-De Bruyn is among the five illustrious people to be conferred with Honorary Doctorates at the University of Johannesburg (UJ)’s virtual graduation celebrations. She is part of the cohort of five Honorary Doctorate recipients who join almost 13 000 graduates, which received their qualifications virtually.

The virtual celebrations take the form of pre-recorded videos during which the UJ Chancellor, Prof Njabulo Ndebele, and the Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, congratulate all those who fulfilled the requirements of their qualifications and whose names appear in the respective graduation programmes. More than 10 000 undergraduate diplomas or degrees and almost 3 000 postgraduate degrees – including more than 500 Master’s and 100 Doctoral degrees – were awarded. Students who have fulfilled the requirements of their respective qualifications can also arrange to collect the certificate from campus, using a booking system on the graduation page of the UJ website. Once the booking is confirmed, graduates will be able to collect a certificate, and have the option of hiring a graduation gown, and taking graduation photographs with two guests.

Among those awarded with the Honorary Doctorates is anti-apartheid activist and the last surviving leader of the Women’s March on 9 August 1956, Ms Sophia Williams-De Bruyn; champion of economic freedom for women, Ms Gloria Serobe, as well as entrepreneur and pioneer developer of property in previously disadvantaged areas, Mr Mike Nkuna.

Prof Marwala noted that due to restrictions on public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the University had to postpone its in-person graduations, which would have comprised of more than 60 graduation ceremonies.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has changed almost every facet of our lives, not least the way universities operate. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) thought leader in Africa, UJ had to be be fast in adapting to and demonstrating its agility in the 4IR space,” he says.

“Because we embrace technological advancements, our students are at the centre of 4IR through innovative learning. The University, in its quest for 4IR, had enhanced its blended learning and succeeded in giving our students access to our online teaching and learning platforms.”

The University’s Registrar, Professor Kinta Burger said a graduation ceremony is such a momentous occasion in a student’s life.

“Due to restrictions on public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the University had to shift from in-person to virtual graduation ceremonies. This was in recognition that a graduation ceremony is such a momentous occasion in a student’s life. We hope that through these virtual ceremonies our graduands and their families and friends are able to experience some elements of a graduation ceremony, in real time.”

On the Honorary Doctorates, Prof Burger said: “The University is pleased to acknowledge the five influential individuals who, through their sacrifices, have made sterling contributions to humanity in the socio-economic and political fields of our country, on the African continent and the world at large. This vision and purpose make the conferral and acceptance of an Honorary Doctorate a noteworthy gesture of mutual respect.”

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