totality. It is the responsibility of the Faculty of Student Affairs, of which I am tasked to lead, to perform this function on behalf of the University,” explains Tlhabane. The Faculty is technically the biggest since it renders services to the entire student population. It has seven departments each fulfilling a particular function.
The Faculty is positioned in such a way that it functions between the campus Student Representative Council (SRC) and university management, serving the interests of both entities. This Faculty is a link between the student body and the university management. It promotes the interest of both entities to each other. Part of the responsibility of the Office of Dean of Students is to create an environment in which the SRC and management can sit around a table and engage with each other in a constructive way.
The Soccer Institute is a Centre of Excellence on NWU’s campus. “We pride ourselves on fielding two highly competitive and highly ranked football teams in both the Vodacom and South African Breweries leagues. Amongst other accolades, we have won the University Sports South Africa (USSA) Football Championship three times – in 2009, 2010 and 2011,” boasts Tlhabane. The Institute’s successes include having NWU’s Boalefa Pule signed for a team in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), with Pule now trading his skills as a goalkeeper for the PSL. Most recently, NWU acquired former Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns coach and current South African Football Association (SAFA) Technical Director, Theodore ‘Ted’ Dumitru, as a technical consultant.
With the Rector operating on an open door policy, his office was inundated with queries which required his attention. He then saw the need to establish the NWU Mafikeng Campus Customer Care Desk and tasked Tlhabane with the responsibility of running it.
Thapelo Amantle Perfedia Tlhabane
Tlhabane obtained her Bachelor of Social Science in Social Work and an honours degree in Communication from NWU. She is married with six children, some of whom are adopted. Tlhabane’s children have followed in their her footsteps in academia with studies that include Biology, Sustainable Development, Mechanical Engineering and Commerce. Tlhabane herself comes from a large family of seven, of which she is the eldest. Her father served in the cabinet of the then Bophuthatswana government. “My father’s philosophy is, and always has been, that you must take care of your colleagues by treating them with respect. This was written in my heart from a tender age,” she elaborates.
Tlhabane is an active motivational speaker and life coach. She believes that she has been privileged to address, and teach in, churches, women’s organisations, youth camps and schools. “I do this in my free time, though I have been challenged to take it up professionally. I also provide expert advice on our local radio stations on various social topics. To de-stress, I enjoy reading, especially novels and books of inspiration,” she says.
North-West University Experience
In 1994, Tlhabane joined NWU’s Mafikeng Campus, as an administrative officer in the Institute of Education, a section of the Faculty of Education that serviced eight affiliated colleges. This position gave her invaluable insight into the operations of a university. During that time, the university went through changes in line with the transformation agenda of higher education in the country. “Through the course of my journey, I have worked with amazing people who have taught me about the university, its operations, systems and processes, thus guiding me through my personal growth within this beautiful institution,” says Tlhabane.
South African Youth
In Tlhabane’s opinion, institutions of higher learning in the country must offer high-quality programmes that lead to high-quality graduates. The design of these programmes must be driven by the market. “It is pointless offering programmes that do not have a fit in the market and, above all, do not address the needs of our country. “South African universities must be able to provide graduates who will speak for the qualification they hold. Mind you, the qualification does not enter the interview room – the individual does. Therefore, the students who leave our institutions must be well-rounded, critical thinkers who will be able to translate theory into real life,” explains Tlhabane.
Tlhabane believes that, to be assertive, you do not have to be aggressive and that most of the time people confuse aggression with assertion. To her, the current generation of students needs to be shown a way of expressing its opinions without losing respect and of toning down the mentality of demanding and not negotiating. “We are not doing our students a favour by educating them, but, instead, they are doing us a favour by allowing us to educate them. We need to treat them as the customer, as we are in a business where the customer has a choice,” says Tlhabane. “There are 25 universities in this country, but students have chosen to be educated at NWU. However, they can move to another university at any point if they so choose.”
HIV/AIDS robs our nation of its young and educated people. It is for this reason that the university established a dedicated HIV/AIDS unit located within the Office of the Dean of Students. The unit drives HIV/AIDS education on campus. Its strategy is a focused one and equips students with information and educates them about HIV/AIDS. “We believe that good education creates responsible citizens who have high morals and are ethical in their conduct. With the huge investment injected into educating these young citizens, we cannot rest on our laurels and watch our investment evaporate,” she says.
Tlhabane concludes by indicating that she views herself as a team player, and that she never seeks to be glorified. “I believe there is nothing that I have achieved which I have done on my own. I believe in people and the value they can bring to the attainment of organisational goals. My success is thus the University’s success.”
More than Academia for Students
A Dean of Students generally has one of the most challenging positions in any university. For Thapelo Tlhabane, this is a role she finds a privilege to fulfil and one she considers a ‘journey of many lessons’. The North-West University’s (NWU) Mafikeng campus, has a holistic approach to student life on campus. Not only do students pursue an academic life, but NWU also exposes students to sporting, political, religious, health and social activities.
“We aspire to grow students who are well rounded people, and have the ability to appreciate life in its
CASE IN POINT | North West University
by Shalane van Rensburg