The education sector is mourning the death of former Council on Higher Education CEO, Professor Narend Baijnath.
Baijnath served the Council on Higher Education (CHE) for five years.
CHE chief executive Whitfield Green described Baijnath as a “consummate professional”.
He said Baijnath was a great friend and a supportive colleague and mentor, always willing to share his time, and always engaged and interested in the people he met.
“He will be greatly missed. We extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Prof Baijnath’s family. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this most difficult time. May his soul rest in peace,” Green said.
Department of Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande Minister Nzimande said Baijnath's death robbed South Africans of one of the finest, tireless administrators in Post School Education and Training (PSET) and the National System of Innovation (NSI).
Born and raised near the KwaZulu-Natal town of Tongaat, Baijnath developed his love for reading as a child.
“His admiration of reading was a building block in his general interest for the academia. Prof Baijnath was a mentor and scholar of note among his peers. On numerous occasions he demonstrated his deep understanding of both the educational and socio-political challenges affecting our PSET. Not only did he illustrate his understanding but also provided written literature on his thoughts,” Nzimande said.
Commonwealth of Learning (COL) chief executive Professor Asha Kanwar said Baijnath’s death was devastating news.
“As the chair of the COL board of governors, Professor Baijnath was always there for us as a wise ‘elder’, a supportive brother and a passionate development professional, determined to make a difference in the Commonwealth. He will be profoundly missed by all of us at COL,” she said.
“Professor Baijnath will forever be remembered for his warm spirit, caring attitude, and devotion to the betterment of education.”
In July 2020, Baijnath was appointed as the chairperson of the Commonwealth of Learning board of governors after having served as the South African representative on the board since 2012. In addition, he served on the board’s executive committee, audit committee (as a chairperson), and as the deputy chairperson.
Baijnath played a number of roles during his career in education. He was chief executive officer of South Africa’s Council on Higher Education, pro vice-chancellor at Unisa, and in the same institution served as the vice-president of strategy, planning and partnerships and vice-president of research and planning.
Baijnath held a doctorate from UWC and a Master’s degree from Durham University. He taught at UCT and UWC and was the director of academic planning at the latter institution when he decided to join Technikon SA in 1998 as their dean of Community Sciences.
He was a member of the Science Academy of South Africa, a fellow at St Edmunds College, Cambridge University, and a research professor at The Open University in the UK.
Baijnath also served on the boards of other regulatory bodies in South Africa. In 2014 he was elected honorary vice-president of the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities.