Premonition of January 2020

I have never considered myself to be a particularly intuitive person. I have the odd hunch, and I know that foresight does play a role in decision making. However, since January 2020, I have been grappling to come to terms with the idea that Climate Awareness was going to be my project for the year.

Having facilitated monthly groups for seniors in which we examine what it means to be a Conscious Elder, I announced at the first meeting of the year that we would be bringing the topic of climate change awareness into our discussions. To set the tone, I invited my grand-daughter Keren who has transformed herself from an artist to a business woman. In her new capacity, she is manufacturing bags which are environmentally friendly as they assist shoppers to cut down on their use of plastic.

It was in February this year, the world outside China, heard about Covid-19.   March 26th is the date of the initial Stage 5 Lockdown in South Africa. “But, what is the connection to Climate Disaster?” was constantly running through my mind. Comes August 7th, not only my eldest daughter’s 60th Birthday but news of The Great Reset. At last, someone was articulating the connections I had been feeling in my gut since the beginning of the year.

Covid-19: The Great Reset by Klaus Schwab and Thierry Mallert

By June 2020, Klaus Schwab the founder of The Economic Forum had started to articulate the long term significance of what a minute virus was doing for humanity. Before that date, I had felt embarrassed to even think that the world wide suffering of the past six months may have a silver lining.  I shared my ideas with but a few broad-minded acquaintances. I was cautious about suggesting that maybe this microscopic non-living matter was here to humble us. But yesterday (Friday, August 7th) I decided I can come out of the closet.   I received an email from The World Economic Forum which stated:

“There is an urgent need for global stakeholders to cooperate in simultaneously managing the direct consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. To improve the state of the world, the World Economic Forum is starting The Great Reset initiative.”

The process has been started. The World Economic Forum is leading The Great Reset by recommending that politicians, economists and sociologists as well as climate activists consider a radical transformation of both values and goals – a new world order and a major transformation of objectives is projected.  One important aim is to close the gap between those born with advantage and those who come into the world with multiple challenges. If you have any doubts about the advantages of being born both Male and White then read Rob Wijnberg, Editor of The Correspondent who wrote an article entitled, ‘What I learned about racism by talking to people who experience it.

When I heard about The Great Reset, I was really happy about the letter I wrote last week:

“Dear Jeanne

Covid-19 has brought some unsettling features into the life of people all around the world. It has affected my sense of security and my perspective.

When, earlier this year, I learned that you were offering the one-year training for Sage-ing Facilitators online, I was very excited. Whilst it was impractical for me to participate in this course if I needed to travel to the USA, doing it online seemed an entirely feasible project.

Hence my excitement when I learned from you I had been accepted on the course.

However, on reflection, and due to the circumstances, I feel that someone on your waiting list could make better use of the training than myself. This past week I participated in an international training run by Climate Reality. This opened up my awareness of the emergency of our situation on planet earth.

Despite scientific predictions over the past century that the warming of the planet would destroy life as it has been known, those in power have chosen to ignore many of the warning signs. Politicians in league with the oil and gas industry have allowed pollution, which has already caused massive climate disruption in the form of droughts and floods throughout the world, to reach a situation of irreparable damage to our ecology.

In addition, the untimely and brutal death of George Floyd has emphasised the discrepancy in economic status between the rich and the poor on this planet. The spread of Covid-19 has also effected the poor disproportionately.

The juxtaposition of Covic-19, the Climate Calamity, and Class clashes has made me feel that there is something more important for me to do than enhance my “Sage-ing Ability.”

I feel the urge to expend my limited energies and time left to me to try and do something in the form of Climate Activism. Helping to develop structures which may diminish the discrepancies of the opportunity between the rich and the poor.

So, it is with reluctance that I wish to withdraw my participation in the training offered by Sage-ing International. I appreciate the time and professional manner in which you have handled my application. I am indebted to you for treating my wish to undertake the training, with both compassion and professionalism. I am really sorry to have to announce my decision to withdraw from the program.

My best wishes to all the personnel at your organisation. I big thank you to you Jeanne for your kindness and hard work.

Best wishes

Grace”

Having been a facilitator of Conscious Ageing for the past decade with members of the University of the Third Age as my participants, I felt a strong urge at the beginning of 2020.   It was the need to refocus my work from emphasising the personal growth of the individual senior and awaken my cohort to the dangers of continued climate disruption.

First Meeting of the year

So it was at our first meeting which took place at the beginning of February that I tentatively suggested to those present the proposed shift of focus.   My motivation emerged from some unknown inner forces emanating from deep within my body.   I was not able to determine why I started to liken myself to Joan of Arc, of all people.   I just felt this need to share with my friends, family and associates this intuitive feeling that each and every one of us needed to do their very best to come to terms with the dangers on our doorstep.  Civilisation which had progressed for many millennia was going to regress, and in the worst case scenario humankind as we understand it was going to undergo a major disruption.

Covid-19 comes to South Africa

It was the following month of March that the knowledge emerged that the Covid-19 virus was going to be a threat to life here in South Africa, just like the rest of the world.   It was now on my doorstep.  Until this time, it was something that was happening in China, far away from us.  So, it was just those few weeks after I had publicly announced my realisation of the association between the Covid pandemic and climate change, that this juxtaposition started to appear in the public domain.

As I look back from the present moment in July, just four months after the lockdown was announced in South Africa, I realise how my early hunches are starting to penetrate the consciousness of all around me.   I still feel a little alarmist when suggesting to people they need to take up a vegetarian diet, or dedicate themselves to a less consumptive lifestyle, or suggesting they should regularly be showing their gratitude for being protected by their comparative financial security.

Becoming a Climate Ambassador

However, I am now just one week into my global training as an ambassador for Climate Reality.   I have been exposed to the thoughts, philosophies and activism or people throughout the world who have enriched my understanding of the urgency of motivating my contemporaries to play their part in the revolution in thought and values that need to take place.

Emerging from the Social Sciences

I have always been interested in the social sciences.   I studied psychology and social anthropology for my Bachelor of Arts and subsequently was involved in education from many different perspectives.  Now I realise how all the knowledge and skills around teaching and learning, I have developed during my lifetime need to be invested in helping this disturbing transformation in climatic conditions.

Confluence of Critical Challenges

The confluence of Covid 19 with the callous death of George Floyd at the knee of the police has raised public awareness of the structural inequalities in our society.  I am starting to visualise how climate change must be part of the solution.   We need to revolutionise the thinking around our present brand of capitalism, and the manner in which our limited democracies are working.

And, a Silver Lining

For me personally there has been a silver lining to all the restrictions to which I have been exposed.    My facilitations in Conscious Ageing have been moved into the zoom room.   I have all of a sudden developed an international audience.   I have participants from South Africa, Australia, England, Ireland and America for the fortnightly discussions on Zoom   So, what a wonderful way to start working on sharing my understanding of the inter-relationship between human inequality, major discrepancies between the rich and the poor, unequal access to health and education, and denial of opportunities to the present disadvantaged group.

Moving to a Sustainable Future

Let us look at all these factors.   Ideally, they all need to be evolved and transformed to create a sustainable lifestyle on this planet.   There are models that have been developed over the last decade to show that these changes are possible.   Let us work on it together to ensure that humanity not only thrives but becomes more fair and equal going forward.

It is 12 noon on a Friday morning, 22nd May 2020. I am feeling energised by three positive experiences. The first one totally unanticipated, and the following two planned arrangements that turned out to be extremely satisfying. It would not be exaggerating to say, “Beyond my wildest dream!”

Generating Hope

My early morning checking of emails turned up an unexpected find.  I received a booklet from our local School Leadership Forum. Accessing the new publication from this link: and I was delighted to sample some of the short stories.   The rationale for assembling these tales was to assist in generating the positive mental health of our school-going children.

A member of the teaching profession had requisitioned stories from a range of educators. She had asked them to create tales which would ‘create hope’ for children needing to cope with their present challenges, such as being denied contact with their friends, or their fears around contracting Covid-19.  What a joy it was to dip into so many uplifting contributions! My exploration of these enlivening anecdotes certainly raised my personal ‘hope.’ I would have loved to carry on reading, but I had an appointment at 10.30.

Invitation for Six Participants.

In this day and age, the only social interactions freely available are those we have in our zoom room!  I had invited six of my contacts to do me a favour.  Something I would not have been able to imagine just two short months ago.

“Please,” I emailed them, “I would like you to attend a 45 minutes meeting in zoom so that I can practice putting you into Breakout Rooms.

Some things you can learn by yourself. Even a team sport you can practice on your own. Most challenges can be improved by solo practice. The exception is allocating Breakout Rooms while conducting a zoom meeting. I had read the online tutorials, and viewed the video clips on the Zoom Help Site, but there was no way I could practice without the help of real live people with beating hearts being online with me!

The Three Aims of the Meeting
  1. I needed to practice placing participants into either ‘planned’ groups, or ‘arbitrary’ groups which are generated by chance within the zoom app.
  2. As the facilitator, I needed to be able to notify participants when they have just 60 seconds to conclude their discussion
  3. I wished to learn how to join each group while they are in the Breakout Rooms, as well as testing my ability to move from one room to the other.

By 11.15 a wave of satisfaction wafted through my body.  I had achieved these three goals. Now when I conduct future meetings, I will be confident the participants will have a positive experience of intimate small group discussions in the breakout rooms. Finally, without needing to be tense, I will have the confidence to bring all participants back into the main venue to continue the large group discussion.

I Advise my Financial Adviser!

Chatting to my Financial Advisor yesterday on the phone, we were comparing notes on our adjustment to the lockdown dictated by the ongoing pandemic and which was now reaching the two-month mark.

He was telling me how well he was doing consulting with his clients in Zoom. “But,” he told me, “I do have one problem. When I want to refer my clients to their personal documentation, I am not able to do so.”

“Well,” I responded, “this gives me an opportunity to offer you some advice! You must join me on zoom so that I can teach you how to ‘share your screen’ with your client.”  I do believe that initially, he was a bit sceptical, but he did not wish to disappoint me.  So an arrangement was made that the meeting would take place on Friday at 11.30; following the earlier practice session which we had discussed.

How to ‘Share your Screen.’

This turned out to be my third event of positivity during this morning. Just five minutes into the meeting, Mark was enabled, by following my instructions, to ‘share his screen!’ He was initially perturbed because the format of the display was different from that which he had imagined. However, a few seconds later, the penny dropped, and I am not sure who was happier between the two of us.  Mark, who had learned a new technique. Or me, who had been able to share my skills with him.

The Moral of the Story

We are going through very trying times at the moment. We will continue to negotiate deprivations of all kinds going forward. Can we tune into the creative ways to enrich the lives of our friends and acquaintances during this stressful time?   As the Stoics https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism would say, “We cannot do anything about the things beyond our control, however, we can use our creativity and imagination to change those things  over which we do have control!”

“Your true purpose is found at the intersection of your greatest aliveness and the world’s critical needs.”  This statement was made by Frederick Buechner to define wisdom.

My Search for Wisdom

It was some years ago that I realised I had reached the stage of my life in which I was supposed to be wise.   However, I did not feel wise, so decided to make it my business to find out what this state of being was all about, and how I could acquire it.

I have always believed that it is easier to approach such a deep question in the company of others who have a similar mind-set.

Engaging with a group about Conscious Ageing

I approached our local University of the Third Age to let them know I wished to recruit members to explore both Wisdom and Conscious Ageing.    The group has been meeting now for the past decade, and has grown to incorporate new ideas as they become part of the present zeitgeist.

Wisely and Consciously Engaging with Today’s Existential Challenges

In the third decade of the 21st century, nothing is more important than coming to terms with the problems around climate change and carbon dioxide emissions.   Inspired by the clarion calls of Greta Thurber, Extinction Rebellion and other similar movements I have been researching what the present day elders are doing about these environmental threats.

Forest Fires in South East Australia

At the time of writing, uncontrollable fires have been raging in South East Australia for the past six months.    This spontaneous combustion has been caused by both prolonged drought and the raising of the temperatures.   Millions of acres of forest have been destroyed, vast quantities of wild animals decimated, as well as the considerable loss of homes and lives reported.   Despite international co-operation, there is little hope of being able to control this destruction until the rainy season.   This is a wake-up call which must arouse the wider public’s awareness of the potential devastation instore for Mankind.    There is no time to waste.   We urgently need to change our destructive consumption of coal and gas.

The Role of the Unconscious in Understanding Climate Change Denialism

Jeffrey Kiehl worked for 30 years studying climate change.  He noticed that when he gave public lectures, his audience would become very uncomfortable when he offered them factual information about the dangers of the changing climate. His well researched scientific evidence made his audience uncomfortable, so they tended to reject the quoted statistics and factual information.   Kiehl decided this denialism must be related to unconscious feelings.  He was so keen to understand this rejectionist attitude that he changed career to study Jung’s Theory of the Unconscious. Today he is a respected Jungian Analyst.

How does the unconscious operate?

Studying Kiehl’s ideas has offered me a new understanding of why it is so difficult for many people, business leaders and politicians particularly, to accept the scientific data.   There is a human predisposition to reject information which makes us feel uncomfortable.    No one wants to change their lifestyle.   The public is frightened by the realisation they may have to consume less in the future in order to maintain a healthy environment.

Crises offer us an Opportunity for Change.

I am reminded of learning about Crises Intervention at the Child Guidance Clinic many years ago.   A good time to create changes in the attitude of emotionally disturbed children is when they are going through a personal crisis.    Maybe the crises created by the present dangers of flood, famine and fire will help us to understand we all depend on each other to maintain conditions for sustainable life on this planet.  The Buddhists told us many years ago that all mankind was inter-related.   Ubuntu in Africa is based on this mutual interdependency.

In Conclusion

The Wise Elder needs to find avenues for co-operation with the younger members of the community to make progress in finding a way to work together to halt and reverse carbon dioxide

I wish to introduce you to The Correspondent.   This new publication was founded in September 2019.   It offers a unique contemporary approach to journalism.   The reader is introduced to a brave and bold approach to playing their own part in the process of news consumption.   The exchange of ideas between journalist and reader is encouraged.  An attempt to counter the present devastating trend towards “false news” is articulated in the rationale for this new publication.   The deterioration in the quality of reportage has escalated during the past three years, during Trump’s presidency.    The Correspondent hopes to create a balance to this unhappy trend with its unique approach of fostering an interaction between writer and reader.

The Relationship of this Contemporary Initiative with my Passions

One of the criteria I like to emphasise in my advocacy of Conscious Ageing is the ability to explore new and novel ideas  whilst understanding you may suffer the consequences.    I heard a lovely quote from Mark Zuckerberg yesterday, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”    The Correspondent is, however, taking plenty of risks.  And I trust this confidence will be rewarded by the longevity of the publication

Below is a listing of the deals of this new venture:

  1. The Correspondent is not interested in the latest hype or scare, but rather the forces which shape the world. They do not cover the weather but are interested in the underlying climate.

 

  1. It is an ad-free platform. It will only collaborate with other organizations on condition it has full editorial independence.

 

  1. The Correspondent will fight harmful simplifications and keep away from breaking news that is designed to shock

 

  1. They practice Constructive Journalism which means they write stories which can influence events in a positive way. They are interested in activism, making a positive contribution to future lifestyles.

 

  1. They are happy to collaborate with their readers. The readers are not mere consumers, but can act as knowledgeable contributors as well

 

  1. They do not pretend to be ‘neutral’ or unbiased.  The Correspondent is open about where it is coming from. Facts are important.   Interpretation is equally important.

 

  1. The Correspondent aims to serve the reader rather than the shareholders. They wish to maximise trust over financial gain.

 

  1. They understand that as journalists they may not have all the answers. They are happy to interact with their readers and recognise when their ideas do not hold up in the face of new evidence.

The headquarters are in Amsterdam

However, The Correspondent has appointed editors from all over the world.  These are some of the categories:

  • Climate Challenges,
  • Sanity,
  • Everyday Colonialism,
  • The 1000 Days (the earliest days in our life),
  • Numeracy including Artificial intelligence,
  • Othering (about diversity, exclusion, social inequality and active empathy), and
  • Better Politics (What policies work?  A practical approach)

I perceive a strong bias towards the social sciences in this choice of specialities.   I continue to be fascinated by the role that sociology, psychology and anthropology play in helping us to understand the politics of today.   For this reason I am looking forward to watching the progress of this new vehicle for the dissemination of contemporary thought.

Adapting my Plans

And now I am feeling shocked.   I read a brilliant article last night by the Climate Editor of The Correspondent, Eric Holthaus.  He described a visit he enjoyed in his American home from Greta Thunberg and her father Svelte.

At this moment the two Thunbergs are travelling in America where they have been invited to speak at various international conferences.   I read an article about them late last night (10th October 2019) in The Correspondent.  I was too tired to concentrate at that late hour, so decided I would come back to it this morning.   Guess what?   It has been taken down.

And here is the reason. ‘The Thunberg family did not see the piece pre-publication. After it was made public, they raised a number of concerns around sensitivities within the piece.”  Holthaus understands their concerns.   Based on that understanding he and the team at The Correspondent decided that the right thing to do was to remove the article from the internet.

I was so excited when I first read this revealing story about Greta and her father.   It offers a very personal perspective of this young 16 year old Climate Activist.  She is at this moment a favoured contender for the award of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  In his story Holthaus included the informal WhatsApp postings between himself and Greta when they were negotiating her stay at his home.   As far as I recall, his two young sons are aged about 3 and 5.   A beautiful picture of the two youngsters interacting with Greta and their soft animal toys, illustrated the story.

As I continue my tale, I am aware it may not be a fully accurate reflection of what I read as I am unable to check my facts.   I will forge ahead anyway!    I am a great fan of this young Swedish woman and am not prepared to abandon the story because my source material has disappeared into the ether.

The image remains with me of an unaffected but passionate young woman who has made sacrifices in order to promote the ideas she feels so strongly about.   Greta and her father have been away from home for a couple of months already.   They were offered a trip across the Atlantic in a yacht as air-flight is totally against Greta’s principles.   The pollution produced by aeroplanes is far too extreme.

As I do not have Greta’s memory for articulating facts, I need to speak in generalisations.  What I learned in the article was that an alternative fuel for aeroplanes is going to be very difficult to find.   Batteries are too heavy, and other potential sources of energy have other practical difficulties.   Therefore the possibility of them being used for air flight in the near future is very low.

The Challenges of being a Celebrity

In his description of the stay of Greta and Svelte, Holzhausen gave me an idea of the sacrifices the couple have made by spending so much time away from home and the rest of the family.   Greta’s mother and younger sister remain behind in Sweden, and it may be a good few months before the family is once again united.   Greta and her Dad have been invited to a major conference in South America in March next year.

The one problem with attending this conference will be negotiating a return trip to Europe by sea in March 2020.   Apparently at that time of the year the currents are not favourable for sailing from West to East.    The travelling duo has still to overcome that practical issue before finalising their plans.

An idealistic new piece of journalism describes the story of an idealistic Climate Activist and her father.   And, true to the aims of The Correspondent, the delightful story has been taken down because of its sensitive content.   I hope my memory grasps the essence of the story without causing any offence.

Not all of us are the owners of vast financial fortunes. We may not consider ourselves to be wealthy. Some of us may have limited monetary resources. However, each and every person needs to protect their family members by drawing up a Legal Will. Also, more recently, a Living Will has become an essential ancillary document to be considered. It acts as a directive for our families if we should develop a long term terminal condition. A Living Will can save a great deal of emotional turmoil if we should be in a state when we are not of sound mind to make our own decisions.

Making use of Opportunities

So when I heard that a local Care Organisation was offering a presentation from an attorney who specialises in this area of advice giving, I decided it would be a good idea to go along and enhance my awareness of these two relevant documents.

Unexpected Insights

While I have drawn up a will based on the counsel of my Financial Advisor, I had not sought the advice of someone who is professionally trained in the rules and regulations around the drafting of a will, so decided to attend the meeting to enhance my knowledge on this topic.

As it happened, I learned something profound from a member of the audience, Kate Brown of Fiscal Private Client Services, who is a financial planner.  She is particularly focused on tuning into the emotional needs of her clients From Kate I gleaned a thoughtful lesson.  It is so important for professional people who are giving technical advice to be tuned in to the nuances of family relationships.

The South Africa Reality

Many senior South Africans have been called geriatric orphans.   They may have middle aged children who have traversed continents and live together with their offspring all over the world.   The apartheid era which started in this country in the later 40’s was the predominant political perspective for the next 50 years.   Many people growing up during this time were pessimistic about their future in this country.    As a consequence many senior South Africans have their grown up children living in different parts of the world.

So, our senior population may have had three or four children, but because of the prevailing political insecurity most of their offspring may have left the country.   Frequently just one of the children remains behind and this person’s job becomes caring for the ageing parents.

When paying their regular visits to their parents, these ‘overseas’ siblings may well question the ‘local’ sibling who has the caring role.   This could be in the field of finances, or health or any other meaningful supporting function played by the remaining child.

Sensitivity or Role Players

This local sibling is playing the numerous roles which, in different circumstances, may have been shared by all the family members.   The home resident, may feel exploited and becomes hyper-sensitive to any comments made by their visiting relative.    A casual suggestion can easily be misinterpreted as being a criticism of the single overworked care person.

It was in this situation that Kate, as financial planner, pointed out the role played to ease the situation.  This potentially hurtful scenario can be anticipated.  The caring professional can offer a warning to all concerned about possible comments and questions so that each player can be sensitised to the possibility that a casual, well-intentioned remark will not be unnecessarily received as a criticism.   In this case a warning offered in anticipation may be of great assistance.

Living Will

There were many questions asked about the validity of a Living Will. Each country will have its regulations regarding this document.  However, if you live in South Africa then a model document is obtainable on the internet from this site

There are five good reasons why a Living Will has become important for all senior citizens to consider in this era of advanced medical knowledge.

  1. It allows everyone to make his or her intentions known at a stage when they are still lucid. A statement as to whether or not you wish to be kept on artificial life support may well be appreciated by your family if you should in the future lose your ability to make decisions for yourself.
  2. You will save your close relations from having to debate whether or not to prolong your life artificially. This document may protect them from many emotionally straining discussions.
  3. It will ensure that excessive expenditure is avoided to extend your life if this is not your wish.
  4. You can make your own decision as to whether or not you would like your organs to be offered for saving the lives of other patients.
  5. Making a Living Will protects you from worrying about what may happen if you become unable to make decisions for yourself. This document can bring you peace of mind.

The Role of Professionals

A chat with the attendees at the end of this productive session of current advice left me feeling more confident of making plans for any potential end of life scenario I may experience.

I felt grateful to be in the company of some wise professionals who can offer guidance in a caring and non-judgemental manner.

 

This morning I experienced a multi-faceted insight into the role of an insightful, articulate and profound leader.   The newly appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, who in the days of Apartheid belonged to the previously disadvantage population in South Africa is now leading transformation at the University of Cape Town.    This institution is one of the leading universities on the African Continent and Mamokgethi Phakeng articulated her vision for retaining the excellence of the institution she is now leading.  The Professor addressed members of the University of the Third Age on her ongoing challenges in creating a multi-cultural hub for tertiary education.   This is despite the fact that a short twenty years ago this institution was reserved for White South Africans only.

The past three years there has been ongoing confrontation around student fees and what is considered to be a Colonial educational system.  The Vice-Chancellor has a critical role in helping this place of learning to become a truly multi-racial institution.  The present incumbent impressed me with her ability to do a great job in masterminding these critical changes in orientation.

She set a precedent by refusing to have the customary Inaugural Ceremony and asked that the money which would have been spent on ceremony, be contributed to pay the fees of students from impoverished backgrounds.   In addition she has donated 10% of her salary to a fund which assists post-graduate students in acquiring the means necessary for further study.

She emphasised the importance of the freedom of speech on a university campus.   Unlike in politics, in business, or even in a family situation, no reasoned discussion can be discounted because of its subject matter.   All points of view and all perspectives must be tolerated on the Campus and freedom of thought and expression could never be compromised.

Professor Phakeng articulated brilliantly the three cornerstones of her approach to leading this illustrious educational institution.   Excellence must never be compromised; transformation is a top priority whilst attention must be given to retaining the stability of the institution at all times.  The profundity of her wise outlook and her practical approach was beautifully articulated during her presentation.   However it was when question time arrived that her true brilliance was demonstrated.

The Professor was asked how she planned to create a sense of homogeneity in a campus where people hailed from such a diverse array of cultural backgrounds.   “On the contrary,” explained the guest speaker, “it is our aim and ambition to embrace diversity at UCT”   She went on to quote many education institutions around the world which were able to cope with students from different external cultures, as well as the diverse ethnic groups in their own homeland.   She continued to articulate a policy in which all values can be respected, debated and encouraged.   No attempt would be made to formulate a limited value system.

A doctor in the audience questioned the speaker about what she had learned when a talented member of staff at UCT had last year committed suicide because of the pressure of not being able to accommodate what he considered the rightful demands of students.   This man was universally considered not only a top scholar but a man of the greatest integrity who belonged to the Xhosa nation.

Without flinching came the response.   “What I have learned is that the mental health of staff and students must at all times be a priority.   Insufficient attention has been given in the past to the psychological challenges which are experienced by both staff and students during the present process of change.”   She went on to explain, “We have set up special mechanisms to encourage members of UCT staff to discuss their personal challenges.   There will be regular meetings at which they can receive proper support and counselling.”

I left the presentation feeling that my Alma Mata is in good hands.   The University of Cape Town would retain its reputation for excellence in both teaching and research under the direction of this hard working lady who understands the challenges of transformation and has both the commitment and the ability to bring her vision into reality.