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Social Justice and Advocacy

Nelson Mandela Memorial and School of Public Governance

Improvements in governance and accountability, economic policy, and global economic conditions have led to more consistent growth in the current period than at any other time in modern African history. In order to sustain and expand this growth, our continent needs to train highly skilled individuals to serve as senior officials in government and government agencies. The values espoused by the founder of South African democracy, Nelson Mandela, his commitment to constitutionalism, inclusion, accountability and transparency are critical for Africa to reach its full potential.

The Nelson Mandela Memorial and School of Public Governance is a fitting development to enhance the legacy of Nelson Mandela and help to underwrite Africa’s bright future. The University of Cape Town, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the South African National Parks Board have formed a partnership to establish the Nelson Mandela Memorial and School of Public Governance on the slopes of Table Mountain to the south of the Upper Campus of UCT. The purpose of the project is to commemorate the ethical spirit of Nelson Mandela in a living memorial which embodies the values of accountability and inclusive developmental governance. This will be done through a centre of memory, a small conference centre and space for teaching and research in the field of accountable, ethical governance and inclusive development. The total estimated building cost is R 520 million but, with pledges already standing at R 270 million, our fundraising shortfall is R 250 million.

Children’s Institute

The Children’s Institute (CI) is a highly respected policy research unit that uses evidence to bring about real change for children. Children are over-represented in poor households, often without basic services like water and sanitation, and often separated from their parents because of orphaning or labour migration. The combined effects of poverty and food insecurity result in persistently high stunting rates – a sign of chronic malnutrition that undermines physical and cognitive development, and contributes to high under-5 mortality. One in three children experience sexual abuse before the age of 18 and rates of physical violence are similarly high, driving excessive rates of child murder. The CI’s research and advocacy agendas are aligned with the major challenges facing children in South Africa, and currently focus on three main inter-related themes:

  1. Alleviating child poverty and deprivation through well-designed and inclusive social protection strategies – in the context of historical and structural inequality.
  2. Improving child protection systems by strengthening coordination, violence prevention and response strategies – in the context of widespread violence and abuse.
  3. Strengthening early childhood development through a comprehensive package of services and support for children and their caregivers – in a context where children have very different opportunities from the moment they are born.

The CI’s staff – with backgrounds in public health, sociology, law, politics, social work, psychology and communications – pool their skills to investigate the complex social issues affecting children. The research evidence is used strategically to contribute to laws, policies and interventions that realise children’s rights and advance social justice. The CI has an annual budget of R11 million. It relies on external funding through research contracts and donations to continue its work.

African Climate and Development Initiative

The African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) is UCT’s collective response to the challenge of climate change in the context of sustainable development in Africa. ACDI is an inter and transdisciplinary research and training institute that brings together academics across UCT and beyond, NGOs, business, civil society and government to co-produce and test new insights, evidence and innovations that will help to solve Africa’s climate and development challenges.  ACDI’s vision is of a developing world that has transitioned to an equitable, sustainable, low-carbon development trajectory. ACDI works towards this vision by a suite of activities framed around three goals:

Goal 1: Enable and facilitate innovative inter- and trans-disciplinary research on issues at the nexus of climate change and development across UCT, South Africa, Africa, and the global South.

Goal 2: Develop capacity of a new generation of African researchers and practitioners with the knowledge, experience and competencies to function effectively towards addressing complex climate change challenges at multiple scales, and in multiple contexts.

Goal 3: Promote well-informed climate response strategies, planning, implementation and decision-making through targeted networking and stakeholder engagements. This includes proactive communication and dissemination of UCT climate change and development research and expertise. In order to ensure future sustainability of ACDI’s work, we are fundraising towards seed contributions for the endowment fund with contributions of R 500 000 to R 1 million.

Schools Improvement Initiative

The Schools Improvement Initiative (SII) draws on the university’s broader resources to assist the Western Cape Education Department in improving the quality of education in the province. The SII’s model of school improvement is sought through the development of strong university-school partnerships. Through the SII the university engages practically, developmentally and critically with the problems of schooling in our country.

This is carried out through Teacher Professional Development and School Organisational Development, student volunteer programmes, coaching and recruitment of learners for university study, and strengthening resource capacity for school libraries. With a strong focus on interdisciplinary collaboration and school improvement, we draw on university-wide resources and initiatives which include academic staff and student service organisations. Over the next few years, the SII will be exploring ways in which we can encourage community engagement that goes beyond the school and classroom.

Our focus will be on the school as the core institution of community engagement and democratic development. We aim to develop strong and responsive university-school partnerships which contribute positively to long-term change in the classroom, the school and in the broader community. While a large portion of the SII budget is provided for from the university’s general operating fund, we rely on donor support in order to meet our annual funding shortfall of R 1 800 000.

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