Human Rights Day 2020 – Message from the Vice-Chancellor and Principal

Posted on March 20, 2020

As South Africa continues to evolve nearly 26 years into its democratic era, special occasions such as Human Rights Day on 21 March are a sobering reminder of the struggle and sacrifice that so many undertook for the benefit of all.

Human Rights Day memorialises the 69 people killed and 180 injured during the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, which followed a march by ordinary people demonstrating against unjust pass laws which infringed on their right to freedom of movement.

Fifty years after this tragedy, South Africans rightly celebrate a democratic ethos built on a culture of human rights, freedom, and dignity for all.

The University of Pretoria is proud to be part of building the South Africa envisioned in our Constitution, in ways reflected in our outlook, culture, policy, vision and mission. When we look back upon an inhumane history which has resulted in a systematically unequal society, UP seeks to address these matters for future generations. Equitable access to a high quality of education produces graduates who are creative and critical thinkers; leaders who excel in the world beyond university; innovative research which has an impact on society and transforms lives; and a deep desire to have an impact on the future of our continent and world by making today and every day matter.

New research (available on our Research Matters website) highlights just how seriously UP takes human rights. The research, conducted by our Centre for Human Rights (CHR), shows how UP takes a stand even when we believe that local laws should be repealed or amended if they violate the constitutional freedoms and rights of society’s most vulnerable people.

UP is proud to be the home of the CHR, whose academics were closely involved with drafting South Africa’s Constitution, a founding document regarded as one of the most progressive, liberal and protective of human rights in the world.

We are equally proud of all the other ways in which we contribute to human rights in South Africa through these and other research initiatives:

  • The Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, whose research ensures that persons with disabilities and complex communication needs have their human rights upheld by having access to the justice system;
  • The Centre for Child Law is responsible for advocating for the rights of society’s vulnerable children;
  • The Department of Family Medicine at UP ensures that the health and wellbeing of persons with substance use disorders are cared for with suitable interventions to prevent further drug abuse;
  • The Centre for the Study of Resilience in the Faculty of Education focuses on acknowledging the human rights of learners who overcome great adversity and obstacles, and trains teachers and industry practitioners to be cognisant of and understanding of the rights of these learners or employees in various sectors;
  • The Faculty of Theology’s Centre for Sustainable Communities has conducted research which combines faith with the collective human rights of communities through poverty reduction, improving the quality of lives, eco-justice and rural livelihoods;
  • The Department of Business Management runs the Mamelodi Business Clinic, which strengthens human rights through poverty reduction by encouraging entrepreneurship and imparting business skills to the community to help people grow their businesses and break the cycle of poverty through education and skills; and,
  • The Institute of Food, Nutrition and Well-being promotes human rights by actively researching and promoting the use of sustainable, indigenous staple food and crops so that South Africans have basic food security.

We envisage the University of Pretoria as an inclusive institution which has an affirming and transformed institutional culture, curriculum, campus and residence life. I strongly urge staff and students to read our Anti-Discrimination Policy for greater detail, and to be aware of the provisions and the manual that goes with the policy.

We do not tolerate the following and are committed to eradicating:

  • racism,
  • sexism,
  • homophobia,
  • transphobia,
  • xenophobia,
  • ethnic chauvinism,
  • religious intolerance,
  • unfair discrimination,
  • hate speech,
  • sexual harassment and harassment based on other prohibited grounds,
  • gender-based violence and violence based on other prohibited grounds; and retaliation, in all its forms.

On this Human Rights Day, take a moment to consider how we can all carry a culture of human rights further in our personal and professional lives. Treating all people with respect, dignity, kindness and upholding the human rights of all is THE UP WAY.

Kind Regards,

Professor Tawana Kupe

Vice-Chancellor and Principal

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