South African university starts centre for Indian studies

March 12th, 2008 - 3:26 pm ICT by admin  

By Fakir Hassen
Johannesburg, March 12 (IANS) Spurred by rising business interest in trade and investment across the Indian Ocean, the University of the Witwatersrand here has set up a Centre for Indian Studies in Africa (CISA) to encourage research, teaching and public debate about India and its growing presence across the African continent. The centre, believed to be the first academic institution of its kind in Africa, follows the growing trend of South African corporates to increase their presence in India and vice versa.

“Wits is totally committed to stronger South-South relations,” said Loyiso Nongxa, vice chancellor of the university, popularly known here as ‘Wits’.

“India has become a leading player in the global economy and global politics, with higher education institutions which are models for the developing world. CISA is one of our flagship projects and will connect us with world-class researchers in many disciplines.”

Nongxa and three colleagues visited universities and research institutions in Delhi, Bangalore, Pune and Mumbai last November as a prelude to setting up the centre.

Faculty and student exchanges are expected to start later this year, as the university gears up to teach courses on Indian politics, economics and history.

Projects in the planning stage will examine common problems on either side of the Indian Ocean as a result of the common British colonial history of India and South Africa. These include issues such as social divisions of caste, community and race.

CISA’s establishment is also expected to give a boost to applied research collaborations between Wits and Indian universities. Projects already under way include one by Wits Deputy Vice Chancellor Yunus Ballim as he seeks to find stronger and more durable concrete together with colleagues at IIT-Madras.

In the education faculty at Wits, Pippa Stein is working with the University of Delhi on the impact of second-language English teaching, which is common to both countries, in high schools in Johannesburg and Delhi.

CISA will also put Wits in a strong position to support economic ties through research, academic teaching and short courses for managers from both countries in legal issues, the business environment, indigenous languages and culture.

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