With the academic procession adding masks to their academic regalia, this year’s academic opening ceremony took place a little differently than usual. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a hybrid ceremony was held to ensure the safety of all attendees. Despite the majority of guests having to attend online, our IT college community did not disappoint! We were pleased to be able to come together as academia, industry, government, students, parents and alumni to share this celebratory occasion.
The official opening of the academic year is a tradition we take great pride in and one which we have practised since our inception in 1999. It provides an opportunity for us to look back on our achievements and share our vision for the future with all our stakeholders.
This year we were honoured to be joined in person by distinguished guest speakers H.E. Mr Vanderhasselt, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium and Mr Mabizela, Chief Director at the Department of Higher Education. We were also joined online by First Digital Managing Director, Mr Kendall, Belgium Campus Alumni Board Chair, Mr Masunika and Belgium Campus Chairman, Mr Rombouts, who joined the celebration from his home in Belgium.
This year’s ceremony not only allowed us to reflect on what we have achieved over the past 22 years, but also to reflect on the many new challenges the last year presented.
“The COVID shock taught us to build uncertainty and flexibility in our development. We saw the need to reorganise the physical aspects of our campus and our campus life, and we rerouted programmes enabling distance online teaching and learning using new infrastructure and software. We had to change our educational architecture physically and mentally to incorporate a COVID-related reality into our education projects, our values and commit and allocate, and reallocate, our resources.” – Belgium Campus IT College CEO, Enrico Jacobs.
Adapting to the new normal and building resilience were common themes during the night’s speeches and all guest speakers commended our IT college community for remaining resilient and adapting for the benefit of all students and society at large.
“The Belgium Campus – students, parents and staff alike – has been able to reinvent itself. You can be proud of your campus for everything which has been done to contain the pandemic and ensure at the same time that you receive quality education.” – H.E. Mr Vanderhasselt expressed while congratulating new students for choosing our IT college.
He went on to cite academic excellence, global competence, collaboration, inclusivity and social responsibility as other key Belgium Campus values that students should be proud of. “Thanks to this quality education you will be able to secure a place in the job market quite easily. At the end of your studies, you will be part of the 8% of all IT graduates in South Africa, in that year, helping to shape your county’s future.”
Our commitment to academic excellence and the provision of a holistic college education was also acknowledged by Mr Mabizela. He praised our unique approach to education, stating that it ought to be a foundation of social justice in the South African education system at large. “Such an approach works to facilitate the transformation of the higher education system to enable it to contribute to the common good of society through the production, acquisition and application of knowledge, the building of human capacity and the provision of lifelong learning opportunities.”
CEO, Enrico Jacobs, acknowledged that the challenges are far from over but assured all attendees that the IT college is proactively preparing for the next new normal, whatever this may look like. “We are doing everything we can to keep loyal to our mission in a new context – delivering skill-apt graduates for the next normal who will promote inclusiveness and diversity, continue to develop intellectually, have an open mindset for growth, challenge the traditional norms, and possess attitudes of thinking creatively, critically and strategically whilst having empathy and care for others.”
The event also provided a platform for the introduction of the recently established alumni association. Founded to strengthen the brand of our IT college and increase the opportunities available to our graduates, the association outlined a number of exciting plans for the year ahead. These plans include the establishment of a mentorship programme to further assist upcoming graduates with the studies-to-work transition, regular skillshare events to enrich our collective IT knowledge base, and the raising of funds, via the Belgium Campus Bursary Fund, to assist previously disadvantaged students and widen access to college education.
With each speech followed by an uplifting performance by the incredibly talented Mzansi Youth Choir, this year’s academic opening ceremony left guests, and speakers alike, feeling hopeful and excited for the year ahead. The academic year was officially declared open by H.E. Mr Vanderhasselt, who encouraged attendees to “go invent tomorrow instead of worrying about what happened yesterday” – Steve Jobs.
We wish our students, parents, staff and stakeholders the very best for 2021. Let’s tackle this new normal in the manner in which we operate – with excellence!