The year 2013 is ablaze, and Civilution is proliferating like a consuming fire. It is time for engineers and engineering to redeem their esteem, prestige and respect; to take back what rightly belongs to us – excellence, ethical business practice, sustainability, and making a difference. Like you, my first passion was to improve the quality of life for my family, my community and the people of a nation. I became an engineer because I believed in my heart that I could make this difference. Somewhere along the road, this noble orientation lost momentum. 

Have you identified your role in Civilution? Is it business as usual, or have you noticed that South Africa is currently fertile ground to germinate a legacy?

To a related topic – I have discussed servitude on several occasions. Hindu philosophy identifies three orders of servitude – the first order being monetary contribution; the second giving of your time, very often in the form of voluntary service; but the supreme manifestation of servitude is the third order, and that is to teach.

In light of this, I honour our university lecturers for their commitment and sacrificial service to research and education. Considering their mandate to produce world-class civil engineers and achieve the goals of transformation for the industry, while also having to cope with the results of poor maths and science education, our university lecturers’ efforts need to be lauded. 

In a radio interview on Radio 2000 after the 2012 matric results had been published, the Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, was asked how a pass mark of 30% would affect learners’ entry into and performance at university. Her defence was along the lines that universities have been requested to adjust their methods and systems to accommodate the learners. The right Honourable Minister obviously needs a dose of Civilution. 

So, while our lecturers contend also with the desires of our politicians, they are still required to produce revolutionary research, investigate new technologies, write papers of international standard, register and maintain their professional engineering status, teach a full day, mark scripts, supervise post-graduate students and source funding to supplement the operations of their departments. I have been privy to what our lecturers earn; for the work output required, the range of emolument is appalling.

Our lecturers furthermore seem to experience challenges regarding professional registration, as the registration process apparently does not accommodate their accomplishments in academia. From my engagement with our academic membership, I have found that our lecturers respect the registration process, and are keen to register, but are restricted due to their ‘constrained’ work experience.

Considering that lecturers have to prepare students for a life of competent engineering practice (and competence is reflected in professional registration), it is my view that it should be compulsory for our lecturers to register. Two possible options could be explored to solve this problem – one, academics could be encouraged to find project management, design and construction experience while they are teaching; and two,  the Engineering Council could be requested to consider tailoring registration criteria to accommodate academics.

Another challenge that our colleagues have is the lack of bursaries for their students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. With regard to postgraduate studies – our universities cannot be leaders in developing appropriate and leading-edge technologies without funding for Masters and Doctoral students. I call upon directors from our foremost infrastructure engineering parastatal and private sector organisations to invest in postgraduate studies for the long-term benefit of our country.

Like you, I have fond memories of my alma mater, and of the lecturers who launched me into a career that is second to none.

To my lecturers, and now colleagues, on the White Water Ridge, in Hillman Building – you rock.

4 Comments

  1. Mr. Pillay – I cannot agree with you more re. academic professionals. Wouldn’t it be a idea to create a new Professional status like PrEng(Academic) based on their experience of teaching and mentoring?

  2. In trying to fit in on the global stage has brought so many challenges also for universities. To improve your rankings lectures will be required to hold a minimum a doctorate and to get to that stage it will need the whole community to produce people who are capable of this level of discipline. When you look at sporting greats they started mastering the art at a tender age. It would not be possible if it was not for the parents and community around them. The biggest issues I see how do we build from the grass roots up?

    Quality is built from quality there is no short cut to that. If you look at the building code of bodies DNA how it ensures consistent replication. If there is something wrong with the DNA issues will arise. If you want world class engineers you need world class lectures. Where do you make this kind of people? Does it boil down to IQ? I do not think so. I think it comes from years of training like tennis, golf or swimming. I believe from the day a child starts school we should prepare them for greatness. 30% is noble improvement but how many are equipped to succeed to become engineers yet alone doctors. I would love to see civil engineers going into the trenches building up the next generation. What is the foundation for civilution?

  3. Interesting reading. I never really looked at it that way. However…I too have a great amount of respect for lecturers…at least the ones that taught me and laid the foundations for me to become I am today…an engineer…

    As far as registration goes…an element of practical experience is very important. One shouldn’t undermine the academic side of things for they are equally important…I therefore feel that lecturer’s contribution to the engineering industry should be recoginsed and hence rewarded…not sure how though… One way could be introduce a programme whereby lecturers are allowed to register as professional engineers with limitations perhaps..

    All the way from Namibia….Manglin…keep up the good work..

    Osho

  4. cool! as a recent student engaging in the field of engineering and civil engineering specifically, i have come to realize that much effort is neede for me to be able to progress in to more academic aesthetic settings in my chosen career path with all this in mind i am highly motivated by the lecturers i have been given a chance to interact with, and they have come enlighten me with knowledge of their actions in the civil engineering profession.
    i am a diploma student at the tshwane unineversity of technology and am currently on process to gain practical training, my issue is also on lecturers who provide information and services to students who seek experiential training, as i am applying myself this knowledge is on due course.
    contacts: 209311828@tut4life.ac.za

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment