SOUTH AFRICA: UNESCO chair for Pretoria

University of Pretoria law dean Professor Christof Heyns has been awarded a UNESCO Chair of Education Law, the Paris-based UN agency announced last week. Heyns said he would work to tackle common legal challenges faced by education systems in Africa.

The new Chair, announced by the Director of UNESCO's Division of Higher Education, Georges Haddad, is the 11th given to South African universities. There are currently 644 Chairs worldwide covering a range of disciplines.

"We would be interested in looking at education law not only in South Africa, but also in the African continent as a whole. We face many similar issues, and we think that we have a common interest in meeting these challenges," Heyns told University World News.

Education law focuses on all aspects of the legal system that serves to regulate education institutions, such as the governance structures of schools and universities. The relationship between those who teach and those who are taught, such as issues of discipline, and rights to access education are also tackled, Heyns explained.

As the new Chair, Heyns said he hoped to help African societies to create the best possible legal frameworks within which education - and beyond that, human flourishing - could take place.

"Education is a vital component of development, especially in today's globalised world. We want to link researchers in Africa with researchers in the rest of the world - the developed and the developing world alike - into a network that will benefit to all concerned."

The law faculty at Pretoria will collaborate with eight law faculties in African countries to ensure that the reach and impact of the Chair is maximised.

The Mail & Guardian reported the Secretary-general of the South African National Commission for UNESCO, Desmond Fillis, as saying that the programme could serve as a prime means to build capacity in higher education and research institutions.