Contemporary history experiences of Kallie de Beer: Stories of my grandpa and- mother about the Anglo Boer War. The family link to the diamond related and seventh adventist church de Beers. Farms in the Free State's little towns and trips abroad. Research in contemporary history of South African diplomacy and the change of the former South African Army into a peacekeeping force in Africa and additional academic research in casu open distance e-learning.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


From left to right: Dr K Taole, Director of NIHE, Dr KJ De Beer, Director: Academic Support and Research at the Central University of Technology: Free State and the Kimberley Regional Learning Centre and Mrs M Grobler, the Public Relations Officer of NIHE.

The National Institute for Higher Education: Northern Cape (NIHE) has been established by the Dept of Education of the South African Government to serve as a hub to host several higher eduction institutions (HEI's) in the Northern Cape.
The main campus is situated in Kimberley with three sub-campuses at the main building itself, the Art School and the former Phatsimang Education College. NIHE could be compared with the very first principles of an open university system, however, very far from the advanced examples such as the Open University of London, the Open University of the United Kingdom, India or Hong Kong. Its purpose is to recruit higher education learners in one of the largest geographical provinces in SA. It is very sparsely populated and subsequently not a viable option to establish a fully fledged traditional residential university. The following partnerships have been merged within NIHE, namely: The University of South Africa (UNISA), the University of the Free State (UFS), The Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT), the University of North-West (UNW), the Vaal University of Technology (VUT) and the University of the Western Cape (UWC).

UNISA is the biggest HEI in the partnership. It operates on the basis of a hybrid model to serve distance learners with an open flexible system. E-learning facilities such as video conferencing are available at far away centres like Springbok, De Aar and Upington. UNISA's engineering courses are also offered at the main building of NIHE. Management courses at the satellite campus of VUT in Upington are simultaneously marketed with those of the CUT, nearly 400 kilometers away in Kimberley. Although there are an array of management courses for the applicants to choose from, the choice lies with the learner client. Accreditation of qualifications are acknowledged by the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) within the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) for the "mother institution" while NIHE awards the diplomas and degrees at their own graduation celebrations. Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) enable learners to articulate in academic fields (vertically or horizontally) and have the mobility from one HEI to another either within the NIHE options or to the respective main campuses of the various partner HEI's in Bellville, Bloemfontein, Pothhefstroom, Pretoria or Vereeniging.

There is also a NIHE in Nelspruit (Mphumalanga Province) however, at this stage not as far advanced like the one in the Northern Cape.

Excellent research opportunities exist in the Northern Cape such as in Astronomy at the South African Large Telescope (SALT) in Sutherland and at the Meerkat Radio-Telescope facilities which could be the forerunner of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) for the biggest radio- telescope in the world. International astronomers are working in the respective areas while tourism management is growing simultaneously in the province.

The Northern Cape also has an airport in Upington with some of the longest runways in the country. It is listed by NASA as a possible landing strip for USA shuttles in case of emergency landings when returning from outer space.

Other research possibilities are the following:
--Rehabilitation of closed mines;
--The effect of the nuclear waste dump at Vaalputs;
--International accords regarding the transfer of nuclear waste via road, by air or --per railway to the Vaalputs site;
--Implications of a second Nuclear Power station in South Africa that may be established in the Northern Cape; and
--Implications for the Meerkat Radio- telescope.

Although only lower grade nuclear waste is dumped and sealed at Vaalputs, international interest in this research field is evident from the literature. Nuclear accidents are always a threat to over populated areas such as Europe while saver options could be researched such as at Vaalputs in the Northern Cape.

Without labouring the point, is is important to take note of the most advanced Institution for Further Educational Training (FETI) for technicians in the South African mining industry at Katu near Kurruman. It is also a known fact that the Northern Cape have the most varieties of precious and semi-precious stones in the world. All these facts are research possibilities for NIHE and its partners. Not to mention the fishing industry in the cold Benguela sea stream on the West coast of the province or even the advanced hydroponic agricultural experiments at Orania next to the Xhariep river. The original people of the area beyond the Xhariep (Orange river) namely the Bushmen (read Xhoi i San) is also a very interesting research field for anthropologists. Much could be learned from them from a view as the survival of the fittest up to our known modern word. As such NIHE could even consider to adopt the big Xhariep river name of the original inhabitants of the Nothern Cape (in the Kalahari), namely the Xhoi i San, in a possible name like: "The Open University of the Trans Xhariep (OUT i X) " !!!



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