Once a student leader, now a respected academic, Mdantsane-born Dr Olwethu Sipuka has been appointed dean of students at Unisa — a position that is a step on the road to his dream of becoming registrar or vice-chancellor.
His new role makes him directly responsible for more than 300,000 students’ psychosocial support.
Sipuka will report for duty on October 1, and he is looking forward to the new challenge. He will be dean of students for a five-year term.
He said the role would assist the university executive to ensure it was responsive to students’ needs.
Sipuka, who has extensive experience in communications as well as the regulatory and policy advocacy sectors, said his new role had allowed him to dream even bigger.
“I am delighted. I think the dean of students is an important area of service. I also think it’s an important step towards being registrar or vice-chancellor,” Sipuka said.
His areas of specialisation include research, skills development, communication, strategic planning and support, and project management.
“I have always been of service for various causes and there is a nexus combining these areas.
“For you to advocate for change and a cause you need to appreciate the policy space and be a good communicator,” Sipuka said.
To add to his accolades, the Walter Sisulu alumnus heads the Party of the Young African Leaders Initiative — Southern Africa Regional Centre.
Sipuka served as dean of student affairs at Unisa and as a national youth commissioner, advising former presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Motlanthe and government on youth development between 2006-2009.
Sipuka, who grew up in a family of five, said having a mother who was a teacher meant education and books were central to his upbringing, but so were cricket and church.
After school he studied at the Vaal Technikon and Border Technikon— now known as Walter Sisulu University — where he was SRC president.
He graduated from the University of Cape Town with both his Master’s and his PhD in philosophy.
The WSU convocation congratulated Sipuka on his appointment.
Convocation president advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said: “We wholeheartedly congratulate Olwethu Sipuka for the double achievement of completing his PhD and being appointed as dean of students at Unisa.”
Sipuka said his mission in life was “to advance social transformation and dignity for the most marginalised in society and the economy”.
“The idea is to change that narrative,” he said.
Sipuka now serves on the boards of the national skills authority and the national development agency.
His work has also seen him on the boards of the SA qualifications authority, the Amathole Economic Development Agency and Down Syndrome SA.
He is also member of the presidential working group on persons with disabilities.
Sipuka has published articles on politics, economics and education, both nationally and internationally.