The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has commenced the 2024 academic year with its newly developed module aimed at addressing ongoing societal issues like gender-based violence, racism, xenophobia and homophobia.
The university said the new module was meant to spark a transformational journey and serve as a catalyst for change.
Around 9,000 students who are attending the institution for their first year in tertiary education will be required to take the compulsory Social Justice and Citizenship Module.
The module is made up of eight online lectures and eight supporting tutorials available in English and isiZulu.
It was strung together by Professor Sarah Gibson, Professor Heike Tappe, Melodious Ndlovu, Professor Thabo Msibi, Doctor Antoinette D'amant, Doctor Sebastian Sanjigadu and Sihle Ncube.
“The module which is going to be run in both the first and second semesters of each year, challenges students to recognise a bit of themselves in everyone else and to respond with kindness, humility, and humanity,” UKZN said.
A pilot programme to test the new module was conducted last year in the second semester at UKZN’s College of Humanities.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning at UKZN and Task Team Chair, Professor Thabo Msibi hoped the new subject base would create more well-rounded individuals.
“Through this module, we hope to produce graduates who are more conscious about their own humanity and that of others, and who have a good sense of dealing with injustice in society.”
The module was originally developed to address one of South Africa’s most pressing issues, GBV, with crime statistics indicating the country is becoming more dangerous for women and children to live in.
In his opening statement during a virtual meeting with the Portfolio Committee on Social Development, Lieutenant General Shadrack Sibiya, deputy national commissioner for Crime Detection in the SAPS said crimes against women and children remain a heartbreaking issue for police.
Crime statistics for the Second Quarter of 2023/2024 indicate that between July and September 2023, 1,514 incidents of attempted murder, involving female victims and 10,516 Rape incidents were reported.
Additionally, female victims reported 14,401 Assault GBH cases during this same period.
But crimes like xenophobia and racism, and societal stigmas like classism, have also increased in parallel to the scourge of GBV in South Africa, which is why UKZN decided to broaden the scope of the module, instead of just one issue.
“As the module develops, it will include written activities and mini projects with which students will need to engage and pass. The aim is to understand how negative attitudes towards otherness develop, and how to challenge these to disrupt old ways of thinking and learn new ways to study, live and work together, with people who are different,” the university said.