"The Most Powerful Weapon"
The Story of the University of Missouri South Africa Exchange Program
Starting in 1986, the University of Missouri South Africa Education Program was the first academic partnership between an American university and a non-White South African university during the apartheid era. The University of Missouri pursued this partnership as a way to build something positive after divesting from American companies doing business in South Africa. They chose the University of the Western Cape because of their commitment to the struggle against apartheid. In the nearly 30 years of the partnership, the two Universities have worked together on projects that have expanded our understanding of the world.
Two universities 8,660 miles apart were under protest by their students for the same reason. On one campus, students demanded freedom and were met with smoke bombs and rubber bullets. On the other, students demanded accountability and joined a movement. The common enemy was apartheid and the role universities played in supporting it.
This project is the professional skills component for my professional project, which completes my Masters in Journalism from the University of Missouri. In the summer of 2014 I travelled to South Africa to interview University of the Western Cape professors and administrators and gather primary source documents about the beginning of the University of Missouri South Africa Education Program. In my discussions, I learned just how important higher education can be in fighting oppression and building a freer society. You can learn more about me and my work here.
Apartheid was a set of laws in South Africa that segregated every level of society. Apartheid laws limited where South Africans could live, work, go to school, whom they could marry and stripped non-Whites of the right to vote. One of the most egregious of the apartheid laws was the Population Registration Act of 1950, which required everyone to carry an identification card stating their racial group. Classifying each person into a racial category at birth was the mechanism for the rest of the apartheid laws. The system led to the daily abuse, dehumanization and deprivation for anyone who was not White in South Africa.
Apartheid, or "seperateness," was a system of laws meant to prevent people of color from owning property and travelling freely through South Africa.
To reinforce apartheid in the minds of non-White people, the apartheid government created a racially segregated higher education system. So-called “coloured” people, or people with ancestry from more than one race, were only allowed to go to the University of the Western Cape in Belville (UWC), a suburb of Cape Town. By making a university for Coloured people, the government hoped they would buy into the racist system. For the students, having a university degree opened up new opportunities in government and professional careers that would not be possible with only a college degree or by matriculating from high school.
Because of the work of committed activists, the University of the Western Cape became a center for the fight against apartheid. Richard van der Ross was the first person of color to head a South African university when he became rector in 1975. At UWC, anti-apartheid protests rocked the campus daily. Professors fought against apartheid, even when it meant losing their jobs. Over time, the university became know as “The Struggle University” and “as an intellectual home for the Left” by local press and international supporters.
Inspired by the imprisonment of anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, student activists around the world became conscious of apartheid. As part of the boycott strategy student movements across Europe and North America demanded their universities divest from companies doing business in South Africa. The goal was to isolate South Africa from the world economy, international politics, sports, culture and academia. In 1985, the University of Missouri was one of the hotbeds for protests and student organizing, where students occupied the newly elected university president’s office. The protestors demanded the President Peter Magrath divest from American companies that do business in South Africa.
Magrath agreed and worked with the university’s board of curators to make a plan for divestment from American companies doing business in South Africa. After several months of public hearings by a university investment policy task force, Magrath proposed and the board approved a phased divestment policy. In addition, the board’s policy called for developing a link with an “appropriate” South African university. After months of negotiation, this resulted in the University of Missouri South Africa Education Program (UMSAEP) and was the first faculty exchange program between an American and a South African university.
Activism at places like the University of Western Cape was one of many factors that contributed to the downfall of apartheid. In 2003, Mandela said, “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.” University of the Western Cape academics used their knowledge and position to further the struggle against apartheid, and the University of Missouri was there to support them in any way they could.
Today, the University of the Western Cape is one of the leading universities in Africa and one of the only historically oppressed universities in the top 10 South African universities. The University of Missouri South African Education program is still strong today, with yearly faculty exchanges, joint research and a joint appointment at the University of Missouri and the University of the Western Cape.
Chapter 1: Separate development
Apartheid, or “separateness” in Afrikaans, was more than a system of segregation laws; it was the ideology of White supremacy codified. Under apartheid, the thought was that races must be kept separate to ensure tranquility and economic development. The laws created social strata based on race, with different racial groups receiving different amounts of political rights. The near total subjugation of the majority Black population in South Africa led to South Africa being pushed out from much of international politics, trade and academia as part of a sweeping boycott of South Africa by nations and organizations around the world.
Since early colonial times, White immigrants to South Africa found ways to segregate themselves from native South Africans and non-White immigrants. Today’s South Africa began as a Dutch colony and later a British colony. After the British granted South Africa independence in 1909, the Afrikaner government passed the Natives Land Act of 1913. Because of the Land Act, the Native majority in South Africa could only own land in less than 10% of the country.
Since early colonial times, White immigrants to South Africa had found ways to segregate themselves from native South Africans and non-White immigrants. South Africa was at one time a Dutch colony and later a British colony. After the British granted South Africa independence in 1909, the Afrikaner government passed the Natives Land Act of 1913. This law limited so-called Natives to “homelands” where they were allowed to own land. The majority of the people in South Africa could only own land in less than 10 percent of the country.
In 1948, the dominant political party, the United Party, was voted out. Under its successor, the Reunited National Party, a new level of conservatism had taken control of the House of Assembly, and Daniel François Malan, a Dutch Reformed clergyman, was elected prime minister. The Reunited National Party was deeply religious, believed in promoting Afrikaner culture over British culture and wanted to expand racial segregation. Referred to as “grand apartheid,” the government passed laws that made race an immutable legal classification, made interracial relationships illegal, kept non-Whites out of White designated areas and banned non-Whites from employing White people. This segregation meant people of color were relegated to “homelands,” rural areas (known as “townships”) and neighborhoods of makeshift houses often on the periphery of major cities. Laws that limited business ownership meant that it was impossible to create wealth or develop at the same rate as White South Africans who had access to the world economy. White supremacy had taken over every aspect of society. It would take a new constitution to change the laws.
The term Coloured has a problematic history. Today, many people refer to themselves as Cape Coloured, or just Coloured. To some, it is an identity that proved the impossibility of apartheid. By forming a new identity born from many, Cape Coloured people created their own language, cuisine and resisted the apartheid system that oppressed them. To others, this term is born out of a need to categorize multi-racial people so that they could be oppressed. Many of the people I interviewed said “so-called Coloured,” and believed the identity was invented by the apartheid regime and therefore must be renounced. By using the terms created by the oppressor, they said, they would give power to the underlying philosophy of separation. I use this term not give power to the historic classification, but to accurately show how this classification was used historically in South Africa.
Under apartheid, there were four racial categories: Native, Coloured, Asian, and White. Native referred to the native Black African population. Coloured referred to the multiracial people, who mostly live in the Western Cape. This group of people has ancestors from India, Europe, Malaysia and Africa. To some, this community of multiracial people became a racial identity distinct from other races. Asian South Africans have ancestry from slaves imported by the Dutch and from immigrants from other British colonies. White South Africans were afforded the most political rights, including voting and owning property; however, they were still not allowed in “group areas” without approval.
Each level of government service was separated by race, with Whites receiving the most funding and the Blacks receiving the least. Asian and Coloured groups received more funding for schools and municipal services than Natives but not as much as Whites. The apartheid system also created bureaucratic strata for each racial group. The Department of Coloured Affairs, for example, dealt only with services for Coloured people, including education and a separate parliament that offered Coloured people limited political rights.
Education for non-Whites was limited. In the 1950s, only three universities admitted non-Whites, and overall few non-whites attended universities. The Extension of University Education Act of 1959 officially segregated higher education and made it a criminal offense for a non-white student to register in a White designated university without permission from the minister of internal affairs. This lead to the creation of four new universities and the change of one university into a university for Xhosa-speaking Black people. Each of these universities was limited to one ethnic group or language. While these universities were placed near the majority of each group’s designated areas, some students traveled hundreds of miles to attend their designated university, a cost that prohibited many from attending.
Click the map markers to learn more about South African universities.
Click the map markers to learn more about South African universities.
Growing the higher education system for non-whites served two roles: to keep non-Whites out of the White education system and to enable non-Whites to continue the apartheid system on their own. “[The apartheid government was] looking for a way to convince the Coloured community that their future laid in accepting this separation, by living with their own people, by creating this sort of ‘Colouredness’ and nation. And the apartheid government would support that, and then they would reward you for embracing it,” said Brian O’Connell. Universities like UWC, the government hoped, would give people of color a reason to support apartheid.
Chapter 2: Struggle University
Fridays in the 1980s at the University of the Western Cape were tumultuous. Students would take over an unused lecture hall to listen to anti-apartheid lectures to plan a new South Africa. After a few hours, the students would start chanting “na die poort,” which means “to the gate,” referring to the gate of the university. The group would then rush the gate of the college and throw stones across the highway at the government-owned train station. Shortly after the students massed at the gate, police in their armored vehicles would come and shoot the students with rubber bullets and tear gas.
Since opening in 1959, the UWC student movement against apartheid was active and vocal. What started as demonstrations became clashes with the police. Because of the near constant demonstration against apartheid, UWC was referred to as “the Struggle University.” But UWC did not protest in a vacuum. Because of different restrictions for coloured people and the commitment to the struggle of Coloured people in Cape Town, UWC was uniquely able to mobilize against apartheid.
While still oppressed, Coloured people had more political rights than other racial groups under apartheid. Even at the height of state violence against protestors, students at the University of the Western Cape were allowed more freedom of expression than at majority Black schools. After the Soweto uprising, those classified as Native were limited in their right to assembly, which included students at universities. Other racial groups’ rights were not curtailed as severely. This racism allowed for other racial groups to organize against apartheid with less but still considerable risk.
Click the map to learn more about District Six.
Click the map to learn more about District Six.
Coloured people in Cape Town had a civil society that predated UWC and fed into its growth as a place for political action. Trafalgar High School was the alma mater for many of UWC’s radical students and teachers, including the Coloured rectors. Serving Coloured students in the Coloured-majority District 6 neighborhood and some Black students, the high school was known for its rigor and political education. “They were Trotskyites,” said Rector Brian O’Connell, a former student of the high school. Many of the teachers were Marxists and specifically followed the beliefs of Leon Trotsky. Harold Herman, a former student at Trafalgar High School and a professor at UWC said that while he is not a Trotskyite, his experience at Trafalgar shaped his political beliefs as a young man. Professors at Trafalgar encouraged him to pursue a university education instead of going to a teacher’s college and encouraged other students also.
When UWC was first opened, activists were skeptical of the all-White staff and administration. Would it be a good idea to participate in a government institution that is clearly trying to indoctrinate students with the ideology of apartheid? This question motivated some young Coloured students to not attend UWC, instead going to vocational schools.
Distrust of a White-run university dissipated after Richard Van der Ross was hired as rector. Van der Ross was the first coloured person to earn a PhD from a South African university. He was active in labor union politics and regularly wrote in White and Coloured newspapers on issues of race and politics. He also is one of the central writers on Coloured history and Coloured identity. His books chronicle the otherwise ignored history of early Cape Coloured people. His books “100 Questions About Coloured South Africans” and “Myths and Attitudes: An Inside Look at the Coloured People” and his newspaper editorials in White newspapers meant to give a Coloured perspective on his identity.
Because Van der Ross was viewed to be a moderate voice, the government thought that he would be the perfect compromise between what activists at UWC wanted and the government desire to maintain the political system. Instead, Van der Ross stood with the students against police violence and paved the way for more revolutionary leaders at UWC.
Chapter 3: From Shanty Towns to the President's Office
Through the 1980s, people around the world rallied behind the Free Mandela movement and pressed universities, corporations and governments to divestment from the Apartheid government and South African companies. Activists focused on Universities because they have investment portfolios that contribute to the annual budget and employee retirement funds. Some Universities investment portfolios are large enough that a decision to sell certain stocks influence a company’s policies. Activists in Europe and North America could not use direct action to fight against apartheid because of distance, but could impose economic sanctions by divesting from companies doing business in South Africa. In England, Sweden and the United States, this movement became popular with college students in the 1980s. Foreign pressure to divest was a crucial factor that led to the economic downturn in South Africa and led to the collapse of the apartheid regime.
The international boycott encompassed all relations with South Africa. Anti-Apartheid activists worked to issolate South Africa economically and socially to show those in power that apartheid was not sustainable in the modern world. South Africa was expelled from the International Olympic Committee in 1970 after refusing to integrate the teams it sent to the Olympics. Many musicians refused to perform in South Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was the chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, was a major advocate for the international boycott of South Africa. Tutu was also a firm believer that South African academia must be boycotted as well, and addressed the United Nations in 1985 in support of sanctions. This meant foreign academics would stop going to South Africa to research and not allow South African academics to present research at international conferences. In 1980, the United Nations passed a resolution requesting all member states to boycott all exchanges with South Africa, including academic exchanges.
The University of Missouri was particularly involved in the anti-apartheid movement. In 1978, Doug Liljegren, the president of the Missouri Students Association, wrote to the board of curators asking them to divest from American companies doing business in South Africa. Later, Missouri students would interrupt board meetings and call for divestment.
In April 1985, a new university president was appointed at the Columbia campus. Peter Magrath was president of the University of Minnesota before coming to the University of Missouri. Protestors were so disruptive at his commencement ceremony it ended early. As he left for his office, a crowd of protestors followed him and invaded the chancellor’s office in Jesse Hall.
When Magrath was with the protestors in Jesse Hall, he agreed to study the issue. So he asked and the board of curators approved the formation of an investment policy task force to study the possibility to divest from American companies doing business in South Africa.
Not satisfied with the partial divestment completed in 1986 — even after the university signed an agreement with the University of the Western Cape — on October 10, 1986, student activists took over the Francis Quadrangle in the center of the University of Missouri’s Columbia campus. Protestors thought the agreement was a way to avoid full disinvestment. To symbolize the strife of non-White South Africans and educate Americans about apartheid, activists created a “shanty town” until February the following year and lived there continually. 58 people were arrested throughout the protest, and some were beaten by counter protestors. The protesters commitment to divestment could not be shaken by the university’s plan for engagement or by violence.
This protest educated students and the community at large. Information about South Africa was not easy to come by. By disrupting board meetings and daily life at the University of Missouri, the protestors made the public confront issues they would not normally.
Chapter 4: "An Appropriate Partner"
Peter Magrath agreed to investigate how the University of Missouri could divest from American companies doing business in South Africa. In April of 1985, he formed a committee with the board of curators of the University of Missouri that would research the possibility of divestment, how that could be carried out and what else the university could do to stop supporting apartheid. Magrath assigned Ron Turner, then special assistant to the president, to work with the committee in researching a strategy for divestment and other options. The committee spoke to experts and also toured Missouri, holding town hall discussions. This process took 8 months, and on December 5, 1985, the board of curators approved the Magrath recommendation, based on the task force recommendation to divest from US corporations doing business in South Africa. They created a plan and set a date two years in the future when all assets detailed must be sold. In addition, “the task force recommended and Magrath agreed that if we truly care about the future of South Africa, we should do what we do best. We should work on an educational linkage with an appropriate South African partner,” said Turner. Under the curators’ policy, there was an immediate need to find “an appropriate partner.” This was unprecedented for an American university. There were no models for a partnership of this kind. So Magrath appointed former university president C. Brice Ratchford to chair a committee directed by Turner to identify an “appropriate partner.
The committee reached out to a broad range of people with knowledge of South Africa. Because of the boycott of South African business and academics, little was known in America about the South African higher education system. The committee spoke with people from American companies the university just divested from, such as Monsanto Corporation. They also spoke with Daniel Purnell, who was associated with Reverend Leon Sullivan. Sullivan is know most prominently for writing the Sullivan Principles, a guide for what companies should demand for equal treatment of employees, specifically in regard to race. These principles were inspired by his experience as an American civil rights activist and applied to companies doing business in South Africa. “Everyone we spoke with said that if there were one university with the potential to operate in a post-apartheid manner, it would be UWC,” said Turner.
After months of research, Ratchford called UWC Rector Richard Van der Ross and asked if he could send a team from Missouri to explore a possible linkage. Even though Van der Ross was not completely sure as to what the University of Missouri’s real intentions were, he agreed.
Chapter 5: Two Weeks
In 1986, the University of Missouri President Peter Magrath called Rector Richard Van der Ross to ask if he could send a team of American professors and administrators to come and investigate a possible faculty exchange program. Van der Ross was a little unsure but did not see any harm in it, so he invited them to come in April of 1986.
So Peter Etzkorn from the University of Missouri St. Louis, Otis Jackson from the University of Missouri Columbia, Henry Mitchell from the University of Missouri Kansas City and Ron Turner from the UM president’s office flew to Cape Town, South Africa. On arrival in Cape Town, Turner spoke to a BBC journalist. When asked what he was going to South Africa to cover. The journalist pointed to the billowing smoke coming from Crossroads Township, a Black majority township near the Cape Town airport. He said, “that.”
UWC professors were unsure about the committee from Missouri. When UWC professor Shirley Walters first spoke with them, she was quick to get at the heart of UWC faculty’s concerns. “What do they think we need? What are you trying to teach us?” said Walters about the questions she and others had. “[We] were challenging any sort of paternalistic intent,” she said.
This suspicion did not scare away the Missouri group. They spent time with professors from all over the university. While the Missouri group did get a tour of Cape Town and the campus, they mostly sat and listened. The goal of the trip was not to deliver a plan for UWC. The goal of the trip was to listen.
“People thought they were spies,” said UWC professor Jan Persens. Because of their professed interest in UWC and their ease in traveling to South Africa, some professors thought the Missouri group were Americans spies working with the South African government to break the boycott.
Turner and the Missouri group surprised everyone with their open mindedness. “They did not try to seem super knowledgeable,” said Persens. Instead, they acknowledged that there was a lot they did not know and asked if UWC could teach them. If UWC professors thought Missouri could help in any way, the Missouri group wanted to be of service. The Missouri group also wanted to hear what UWC felt they could offer an American university. From the beginning, it was not the patriarchal relationship Walters feared. Turner was clear that this relationship was going to be academics working together on equal footing, or Missouri was not going to engage at all.
Still, some were not convinced international engagement was in the best interest for UWC. They asked why should they dilute their commitment to the struggle against apartheid by engaging with an American university, a country that is so allied with their oppressor? Brian O’Connell, then professor at UWC and current rector, recalls Turner saying, “It is one thing to be against, but you must also be for. You can be against apartheid, but you must be for building the new South Africa.” With this in mind, O’Connell and others initially opposed to the linkage were convinced.
In a meeting with in a lecture hall with staff from all over the university, one professor asked Turner, “Whose side are you on, the government or the ANC?” This question hit at the core issue of the University of Missouri’s mission. Turner said, “I’m on UWC’s side. Whose side is UWC on?” The University of Missouri decided to stand with academic colleagues working against apartheid but was not in the position to oppose the government of South Africa. The University of Missouri was not acting against the apartheid government; they were seeking to working with an educational partner committed to building a new South Africa.
After two weeks, the Missouri group headed home. During their stay, they spoke candidly with some very pro-apartheid people and met with revolutionaries living in townships. They listened and found that the University of the Western Cape was the most appropriate partner for working towards a new South Africa. As the Missouri group was leaving, Turner spoke with Van der Ross. Turner remembers Van der Ross saying, “ We have had a long train of American educators come to visit, they have tea, offer to help and we never hear from them again. There is something different about Missouri; first, you came as a team of four, you did not flit about the country, you stayed here and tried to get to know us. Yes, there is something different about Missouri. I think we can work with Missouri.”
Following the Missouri team visit, Van der Ross sent the new UWC Rector designate, Jakes Gerwel, to Missouri in June 1986. Before this visit, both sides worked on a draft memorandum of agreement that would outline the University of Missouri South Africa Education Program. Gerwel signed the agreement with Magrath in Missouri on June 1986. After, Van der Ross agreed to send a team of UWC professors to Missouri so that they could see what they could gain from a relationship with Missouri and to see if Ron Turner was as sincere as he seemed.
Chapter 6: Could We Work Together?
After the team from the University of Missouri left, and after rector designate Jakes Gerwel’s visit to Missouri in June 1986, UWC professors and administrators had to decide if they trusted Missouri, and if so, if they were willing to break the academic boycott. The University of the Western Cape decided they did trust Missouri, and with some discussion with the ANC abroad, decided an academic partnership with Missouri would not be considered breaking the boycott.
In addition to a boycott on businesses working in South Africa, there was a boycott on South African academics. South Africans were not allowed at some international conferences, international journals were not imported to South Africa and only the most conservative South African universities sent their professors abroad. Even when offered, professors at UWC that were committed to fighting against apartheid refused to speak at international conferences.
“The academic boycott was about bringing the struggle to people that didn’t think they had to engage with it,” said Shirley Walters. Academics, in particular White academics, were able to avoid the repercussions many in the business community felt from the international boycott.
White South African universities were instrumental in the creation and continuation of apartheid. To this day, Stellenbosch University honors the Afrikaner Nationalist D.F. Malan with the D.F. Malan Memorial Centre. D.F. Malan was prime minister in 1948 and was the architect of the grand apartheid. Under his leadership, the racial categories were created, the Group Areas Act was passed and interracial marriage was banned. Even into the 1980s, White universities perpetuated the logic of apartheid and prepared White South Africans for careers in maintaining the system. South Africans encouraged international conferences and foreign universities to not invite any South African academic to contain apartheid ideology.
This did not work as well as activists in South Africa and abroad had hoped. Conservative White universities still sent professors to international conferences and published papers. Not every international conference could be persuaded to exclude South Africans. This left UWC and other universities in South Africa that were committed to the struggle against apartheid at a comparative disadvantage. While Stellenbosch and Pretoria were growing in international clout, UWC was stagnating.
The consequence of this was not lost on UWC professors. They were convinced that with the resources they received from the South African government, they were not prepared to expand in a post-apartheid South Africa. They saw that potential internationalization could invigorate professors and expose them to new ideas. Having access to the libraries and advanced technology at the Missouri universities would help with their research. A linkage could help with the examination of PhD candidates, meaning their graduates would be even more prepared for research at an international level. But most were not willing to break the boycott.
Richard Van der Ross was set to retire in 1986, and his replacement was already beginning some work at UWC. Jakes Gerwel was a well-known activist and lecturer at the Hewat Teachers’ Training College and later at UWC. Because of his activism, he was in contact with the African National Congress (ANC) in exile. Through secret letters, the ANC organized attacks on government infrastructure and protest in South Africa. Gerwel sent a secret letter to Thabo Mbeki, an ANC leader who became a post-apartheid president in 1999, explaining the situation. Gerwel also spoke with the United Democratic Front members, a political party in South Africa that opposed apartheid but was not banned by the apartheid government. Because of UWC’s commitment to the boycott and Missouri’s commitment to stop supporting apartheid, the ANC and UDF supported an international linkage and did not consider it breaking the boycott.
On June 19, 1986, rector designate Jakes Gerwel arrived in Missouri to sign the memorandum of academic cooperation. This document says the cooperation will include, “student interchange, selected cooperative academic programs, joint faculty appointments, faculty exchanges, financial aid support, manpower support to assist in tutorials, internships and academic research development and training opportunities.” Pieter Le Roux happened to be in St. Louis, Missouri at the same time as Gerwel. He spoke to Gerwel after signing the agreement. Gerwel said he was hopeful for the partnership, with Missouri’s tradition as a land-grant university and with Ron Turner’s commitment to UWC.
After the agreement was signed in 1986, the two partners still had work to do to build trust and learn more about one another. The following year, Richard Van der Ross sent Brian O’Connell to Missouri to tour the different campuses and see if Missouri was as committed to the struggle against apartheid as Ron Turner and the group of representatives were. O’Connell was one of the most vocal critics of America’s involvement in apartheid and most resistant to a linkage with an American university but became convinced of Missouri’s sincerity. When he toured the Missouri schools, he found some professors had the same reservations he had, but about UWC. One professor accused him of being a spy from the South African government trying to break the boycott. This was not the case, and over time Missouri professors came to see the commitment UWC professors had to the struggle and to their students.
Chapter 7: The Partnership Continues
In 1990 apartheid began to fall apart in South Africa. Following President Botha’s resignation, Fredrik Willem de Klerk took office. In a surprise move, de Klerk unbanned the African National Congress and other Black political parties, ended the Land Act and released political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. He began the steps to end apartheid and in 1991 started negotiations with Mandela and other Black political leaders to transition the country to majority rule. In 1994, Nelson Mandela won the first open and democratic election in South Africa, and in 1995 the new constitution was ratified.
Today, the University of the Western Cape is now one of the top universities in Africa. UWC is one of the only historically non-White universities to compete with the wealthy, historically White universities in South Africa. While the University of Missouri South Africa Education Program is not what caused that high ranking, the partnership between the two universities has helped the University of Missouri in its understanding of South Africa, provided support for the University of the Western Cape as they expanded and yielded exciting research projects.
Before the University of Missouri, the University of the Western Cape was only approached by American universities that wanted short-term, one-sided relationships. Usually these offers involved funding that mostly benefited the American university, were not meant to be long lasting and were patriarchal in nature. Missouri saw UWC for what it was, a school in a difficult situation with gifted academics, and wanted to learn from them and research with them. At the beginning of the partnership, it was hard to learn a great deal about South Africa, so because of the exchange program, Missouri professors had access no other American university had. After apartheid ended and the country returned to the international community, this partnership gave Missouri a leg up on engaging with South African academics and learning about South Africa.
Missouri approached UWC at a time of transition. It was, by design, a university at the periphery of South African academia. Jakes Gerwel’s mission to make UWC “an intellectual home for the Left” did not just mean introducing Left politics throughout the university. It meant reinvigorating the university across the board. In 1990, Gerwel hired Renfrew Christie as dean of research. Christie was a collaborator with the military wing of the ANC. His research for his Doctorate of Philosophy at Oxford University on uranium enrichment and power generation was used to orchestrate bombings on nearly every power plant in South Africa. As dean, he required professors to have PhDs when they previously were not required to. He enabled professors who had not published before to publish in international journals. UWC began making landmark strides in scientific research, and funding began pouring in. Because of hard work and innovative research, UWC is beginning to match its historically advantaged neighbors.
In the mid-1980s, UWC had some PhD graduates each year but not as many as the White designated universities. Yusuf Osman, the director of the dentistry program at UWC, said in the early 1990s only 20 people graduated a year with degrees in dentistry and there was no doctorate level program. The focus of the program was more on training practitioners, not investigating policy or creating new materials. Osman and the dental faculty became close with David Eick, a professor of oral and craniofacial Sciences at the University of Missouri Kansas City. “It made it so real for them. Reading something in the textbook, listening to what you’ve got to say…when David Eick came, they put a face to the name and suddenly all this came alive to them. At that stage…materials research was major and made great strides in this faculty,” Osman said. Eick would come to UWC every year, give lectures and look over PhD work. Eick was not the only one. Having external review for PhD candidates helped increase the output of the university. Today, UWC’s dental school is the largest in Africa.
The University of Missouri South Africa Education Program is more than just an exchange program. The universities have research projects together. The South African Traditional Medicines Research Group is a project started in 1997 out of UWC’s School of Pharmacy that looks to analyze the safety and effectiveness of African traditional medicines. Bill Folk, a biochemistry professor and senior associate dean at the MU School of Medicine, worked with Quinton Johnson, the head of the South African Traditional Medicines Research Group, on researching the effectiveness of Sutherlandia frutescens on boosting the immune systems of people with HIV/AIDS. The clinical trial started in 2008 was one of the largest and most thorough of any test of a traditional medicine in South Africa.
In 2014, UWC and Missouri took a step further in their partnership. The Green Nanotechnology Centre at UWC takes a novel approach to nanotechnology research. Creating nano particles can create a great deal of hazardous waste. This program takes the environment into consideration throughout the process of making nanotechnology and its application. Dr. Kattesh Katti received international notoriety after prostate cancer treatment with gold nano particles made from green tea showed promise for treating cancer in a safer way than chemotherapy or radiation. Katti has taught radiology, physics and biological engineering at the University of Missouri since 1990 and directs the University of Missouri Nanoparticle Production Core Facility. He is also the first professor to have a dual-appointment at both UWC and the University of Missouri.
The University of Missouri did not set out to end apartheid. Instead, they sought to enable one university to achieve its potential. They did this by working as partners, not patrons.
This project would not be possible without the support financial support of the Jack Fields Scholarship and the Missouri School of Journalism. Thank you to my project committee, David Rees (chair), Rita Reed and Brian Kratzer. Your guidance and mentorship through this project has been invaluable.
Thank you to everyone I interviewed for this project:
- Renfrew Christie, Dean of Research at the University of the Western Cape
- Harold Herman, Former Professor and Dean of the Education Faulty at the University of the Western Cape
- Martin Hendricks, Associate Researcher in the Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Program at the University of the Western Cape
- Leolyn Jackson, Director of International Relations Office at the University of the Western Cape
- Pieter Le Roux, Former Director of the Institute for Social Development
- Brian O’Connell, Rector of the University of the Western Cape
- Yusuf Osman, Director of Dentistry School at the University of the Western Cape
- Jan Persens, Former Head of the International Relations Office at the University of the Western Cape
- Mannie Regal, Executive Director of Finances
- Ron Turner, Former Special Assistant to the President’s Office at the University of Missouri
- Richard Van der Ross, First Coloured Rector of the Unversity of the Western Cape
- Shirley Walters, Director of Division for Life Long Learning of the University of the Western Cape
I would also like to thank:
- Everyone at The Mayibuye Archives
- Abby Connelly, photojournalist
- Gary Cox, reference archivist for the University of Missouri Archives
- Armando Diaz, Media Producer, BioMedical Communications, UMKC School of Dentistry
- Menalanie Geustyn, Principal Librarian, Special Collections, National Library of South Africa
- Harold Herman, former dean of the Education program at the University of the Western Cape
- Leolyn Jackson, director of the International Relations Office at the University of the Western Cape
- Greg Kendall-Ball, photo editor
- Anna Kroll, digital and performance artist
- Tess Malone, copy editor at Atlanta Magazine
- Andre Odendaal, historian
- Randall Smith, Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism
- Rodney Uphoff, Elwood Thomas Missouri Endowed Professor of Law, Director of the University of Missouri South Africa Educational Program
And my family.
You can learn more about me and my work by clicking here.