A R200m university library that will serve 18,000 students from three universities was officially opened in East London on Saturday by higher education and training minister Naledi Pandor.
Named after the late Eastern Cape-born renowned political activist and scholar Phyllis Ntantala, the library was a culmination of a six-year partnership between Walter Sisulu University (WSU), University Fort Hare (UFH) and the University of South Africa (Unisa).
The department forked out R120m, Unisa R50m, UFH R30m and WSU R20m.The building boasts six floors including the basement. Each university has its own floor and the building can accommodate 2,500 students.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Pandor said the new facility would contribute significantly towards alleviating the acute shortage of study, research and learning spaces for the three universities within the East London area.
“This is the first successful joint-venture educational facility built to support teaching, learning and research for students and staff of three universities.“This demonstrates how the department can partner with universities in the provision of quality shared infrastructure facilities,” said Pandor.
Ntantala was married to AC Jordan, and speaking on behalf of both families, Reverend Khazeka Ntantala-Somhlahlo said they were humbled by the honour from the three universities.
“She [Phyllis Ntantala] comes from a humble beginning from a rural life. It was unthinkable that she would become a strong thinker and a symbol of men’s struggle. She is the icon of the family and naming the library after her is commemoration of what she stood for,” said Ntantala-Somhlahlo.
UFH vice-chancellor Professor Sakhela Buhlungu described the joint venture between the three universities as a unique experiment.
“When I joined the university last year the building was halfway up and I watched it emerge into this beautiful, elegant structure,” he said.
Buhlungu also said the library was a vote of confidence in BCM and a signal that the three universities were here to stay.
Unisa vice-chancellor Professor Mandla Makhanya said the opening of the library was a dream come true.
“It was a critical commitment to be part of this library. This is a noble cause for our country’s education,” said Makhanya.WSU vice-chancellor Professor Rob Midgley was also overjoyed.
He said the collaboration was a test case for many joint ventures to come between the universities.The president of the SA Union of Students, Misheck Mugabe, called on students to treasure the building.