A groundbreaking decision was made in the Ordinary Council meeting that was held through both virtual and face to face platforms, in the Bitou Council Chambers on Friday the 31st July 2020.
Professor Anele Hammond, PhD, from Engadin’ Stiftung, a Public Benefit Organisation that alleviates poverty through education, presented insightful research findings emanating from extensive research conducted over the last decade, by a multi-disciplinary group of Academics, supervised by the University of Zurich in Switzerland.
In her presentation she highlighted a thorough assessment conducted on what the economy of Plettenberg Bay needs to function effectively, in addition to a thorough skills assessment on our youth and economically active adults. The research findings overwhelmingly recommended re-thinking of skill-sets taught and comprehensive grooming of our youth through a re-imagined tertiary institution; in order to meet the demands of our economy, whilst resolving youth unemployment..
In accordance to the current and future economic needs of Plettenberg Bay and the entire Garden Route, factoring the changes emanating from Covid-19, Engadin’ Stiftung resolved to establish a new-generation University in Plettenberg Bay: Engadin’ Institute of Aeronautics, Agriculture and Innovative Social Entrepreneurship. Prof. Hammond and her team proceeded to secure funding to establish this University and are currently pursuing licencing through the Department of Higher Education.
The council meeting unanimously concurred with the research findings and the desperate need to establish this University in Plettenberg Bay. Therefore, this council resolution unlocked an opportunity that will have significant impact on the education of the town and the entire garden route..
The University will offer skills development courses that are tailor made for the early school leavers. Those youngsters that leave school before obtaining a senior certificate will be able to obtain skills that would make them employable or able to establish their own SMMEs. There is a major gap for skilled plumbers, bricklayers and other important career paths. Professor Hammond says that those professions that are seen not be so glamorous should be respected because they are important too. The economy needs waiters and plumbers just as much as it needs doctors and lawyers. We need a comprehensive skills catalogue to function effectively.
The proposed University will have a very strong Business Management and Legal focus to it because these are very crucial to creating business opportunities, creation of jobs and restoring the dignity of people. Professor Hammond explained that the university would most probably be fully implemented in the coming five years. However, some courses can be implemented immediately and these includes a Transactional Law Clinic, Business Development and Business Incubation.
The Transactional Law Courses is crucial to empower students with legal skills that are so needed in our society. This law practice will empower students to deal with the everyday challenges that confronts women and young people of this society. These includes Gender Based Violence as well other Human Rights Violation. On the other hand, the business development course will assist with enterprise development and in doing so empower students to become job creators instead of being seekers of jobs.
Professor Hammond gave assurances that most of the groundwork that will lead to the establishment of the institution in Bitou has been completed and is ready for implementation. The commitment from the Senior Members making up the Management of the University has been given and the necessary financial guarantees are in place the only commitments required, amongst others, includes;
The Municipality making available the required land for the institution and making sure that this land is suitably zoned for the university and its multi faculties;
The Bitou Council supporting with the process of soliciting the approval of the Minister of Higher Education for the establishment of the institution;
The response from the Bitou Council was very emphatic in supporting the proposal that Professor Hammond gave as well as the overall concept of the institution for Plettenberg Bay. They highlighted the fact that this institution will have many benefits for the community and the fact that it will work hand in hand with other educational institutions to integrate as an ideal investment.
Councillor Mphakamisi Mbali in his comments mentioned that the institution would fill up a huge gap that we are currently experiencing in Bitou as well as the rest of the country. That gap is the dealing with early school dropouts as well as graduate employability. The presentation speaks directly to the issues raised by the National Youth Development Agency. The other fact that will be a major coup for Plettenberg Bay could be to use the institution to position Bitou as a Centre of Innovation. This will have huge economic spin offs for the town and the entire region.
On the other hand, the Executive Mayor, Councillor Peter Lobese, in welcoming the presentation and the proposal, mentioned that the institution will lead Bitou on another economic trajectory and will open up many doors for the people of this town. It will attract skills development opportunities and create new possibilities for those that want to further their education but are being prevented to do so due to full time work commitments. It will also provide additional benefits to the municipality in terms of new revenue streams and could have an impact on our economy by boosting existing sectors and developing new ones.
The ideal venue that has been identified will breathe life into the Bitou “Coming Together” project, as it will be closely situated to the communities that are central to this project. The venue will be confirmed at a later stage when all processes are concluded and public participation processes are done.
In conclusion, the Bitou Municipality unanimously resolved to support the proposed establishment of the institution. The recommendations put forward by the NGO will be fulfilled accordingly.
Statement by the Bitou Executive Mayor
Councillor: Peter Lobese
Date and time Issued: 18 April 2020 at 19h00