Article first published on Sowetan
by Kabelo Chabalala

An important declaration was made in the Government Gazette number 23549 Volume 444 of June 21 2002, eight years after our democracy.

It stated that the three Technikons in the Tshwane metropole – Technikon Northern Gauteng, Technikon North-West and Technikon Pretoria – should become one. The concept was released on January 1 2004, when the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) opened for business.

For some bourgeoisie millennials, TUT is one institution that they had written off. They called it all derogatory words or phrases. One would almost feel uncomfortable or ashamed to be associated with the meanings attached to the acronym. At times, I couldn’t proudly say I am a TUT student.

Others would mock us and say, Tsotsis Under Training. Some dubbed it Take Ur Time, citing lack of urgency to finish our courses, indirectly labelling us lackadaisical.

During the 2010 and 2014 school holidays, the traditional university students in the villages would talk about how TUT was an extension of our high school. How they would come to such conclusions left me baffled. I chose to keep quiet and continue to pursue my dreams.

They also called TUT the headquarters (HQ) of strikes, labelling the students boisterous and unfocused, while the truth is that the students were fighting for basic human rights. They wanted access to free education. They wanted NSFAS to be functional and accommodating.

However, many only started to see the value of this cause when #FeesMustFall became a national student-led protest movement that gained more traction on October 12, 2015, to stop increases in student fees and push for an increase in government funding of universities.

With a handful of students from traditional universities being catapulted to poster boys and girls of the student struggles. None of the TUT students are known as champions of this cause. People who came from nowhere are the faces.

This of course is a story for another day, because we continue to tell one-sided stories and let undeserving people raise the trophy. I digress.

But is that truly all there is to it when coming to this great institution? In the two decades of its existence, TUT has been a game-changer in the South African higher education landscape.

Since I descended on the grounds of TUT in 2009, I felt inspired and that I belonged. Things didn’t go my way; and I made a powerful return in 2010 as a budding journalist. I completed my Journalism National Diploma in 2012 and subsequently enrolled and obtained a B-Tech in Journalism in 2013.

Today, when you tune in on TV news channels, you are most likely to bump into Koketšo Motau, Mbali Thethane, or Natasha Phiri of the SABC or Pule Letshwiti Jones on eNCA. This being an election year, a certain Dr Levy Ndou or Dr John Molepo will also be gracing the screen with insightful commentary about the political landscape.

In the communications space in government there is a Tsakane Khambane and Motalatale Modiba, to name just a few.

All the above names have one thing in common, they are the alumni of TUT. They are a drop in the ocean of great success stories that come from this 20 years old institution.

The “People’s University” is now home to sports champions, a centre for artificial intelligence and a national laboratory for thought leadership on future employment preparation.

If the abbreviation TUT was to be accurately defined, I think it would stand for Trailblazers Under Training.

Chabalala is the founder of the Young Men Movement and a TUT alumni

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