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UCT moves to tackle inequality

By Gadeeja Abbas Time of article published Jun 2, 2016

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Cape Town - UCT is poised to become a major player in a global programme to help create a community of leaders dedicated to eradicating inequality through changing policy, practice and public dialogue.

The London School of Economics and Political Science, the Atlantic Philanthropies and UCT’s Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice (GSDPP) have announced the Atlantic Fellowship programme aimed at leadership development that will equip professionals and students with “tools for transformation”.

In SA, racism and discrimination have been highlighted in national debate recently and the Prevention of Combating of Hate Speech Bill, which would criminalise racism and hate speech, is also on the cards.

The Department of Justice and the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) have welcomed the international initiative.The programme is funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies, which has invested more than £64.4 million (R1.44bn) for the next 20 years. More than 600 academics, activists, policy-makers, journalists, lawyers, health professionals, cultural leaders writers and artists will be trained on one of three different levels of engagement.

Participants will follow one of three tracks, residential at the London school over a full year, non-residential for periods over 12-18 months and a programme for senior academics and practitioners to work together in order to pool research and practical knowledge to respond to key challenges. The group of senior academics would be based in London.

Alan Hirsch, director of GSDPP at UCT, said the programme would equip young leaders with tools to engage with pressing inequality, gender and racial discrimination issues. The GSDPP is part of the university’s Poverty and Inequality Initiative, a collaborating partner with the London School of Economics International Inequalities Institute in the Atlantic Fellows Programme.

to tackle inequality

Professor Hirsch said: “We are working toward a transformed country. Currently, we have high levels of inequalities. It is mainly financial inequalities taking the form of racial inequalities. However, South Africa is not the only country with inequality issues; we are trying to engage the wider Africa.”

Hirsch said that participants will learn from experts and other Atlantic Fellows on better ways to engage with inequalities.

“We are trying to create a global community with a similar focus - tackling issues of inequality,” he said.

Justice Ministry spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said: “Any initiative aimed at addressing inequality in our country is encouraging and needs our support.”

SAIRR spokeswoman Mienke Steytler said the programme had the potential to be a fantastic initiative with much impact.

She said special attention should be on unemployment and youth unemployment, which is at 50 percent, and empowerment.

“Developing sound policies... would have an immense influence - labour laws need a rethink regarding unemployment and empowerment policies like Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) too. The Atlantic Fellows will be invaluable in brainstorming... an presenting to government.”

Professor Murray Leibbrandt, UCT’s Vice Chancellor for Poverty and Inequality, said: “We seek to orient and infuse classrooms and our research with the realities and challenges of our society and to work with our students to empower them for a lifelong contribution to overcoming these challenges.”

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