Powerful moral underground keeps SA together, says Jonathan Jansen

“I have given up on the government. I believe we have crossed over into a very dark space,” Prof Jonathan Jansen said at a recent launch.


Stellenbosch, South Africa – There is a very powerful moral underground that keeps this country together. If you take non-profit organisations (NPOs) out of the system, this country will collapse.

This is what Prof Jonathan Jansen recently said at the launch of the University of Stellenbosch Business School’s Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership Development with a focus area in NPOs.

The professor was born in Montagu and grew up in Steenberg and Retreat. He completed his BSc at the University of the Western Cape and his teaching credentials at Unisa before doing an MS at Cornell University and a PhD at Stanford University. He was a high school biology teacher in Vredenburg and District Six and spent the rest of his career in university teaching and leadership around South Africa.

In addition to his work in changing schools, he leads a significant project on behalf of the Minister of Higher Education that prepares promising young academics from the 26 public universities for the professoriate.

He recently addressed the audience on the hard realities of leading in the NPO sector and says the essential need in this sector is leadership.

“I have given up on the government. I believe we have crossed over into a very dark space.”

He adds that the real value of the NPO sector lies in its capacity to do something different and innovative from what government departments do.

“If you are in this space and you simply do what the state has failed to do, then you have lost an opportunity to really make an impact,” he says.

He says the private rate of return to investment in education in South Africa is the highest in the world – even higher than Chile. The problem we have, he says, is that the investment that we make is not matched by the outcomes that we get.

“That, of course, is an efficiency problem. But you can make an incredible difference in education by simply investing in education. I see people doing that, and I see incredible things going on. I call this the moral underground,” he says.

Prof Arnold Smit, the programme coordinator of the new stream and head of USB’s Social Impact, says social impact is about creating hope for people and advancing change for a flourishing world.

“One thing that is particularly important is to create public value and social impact,” he says. 

“We strive to be responsible leaders who work with others to enhance quality of life, create a spirit of generosity, and work for a fair and just society.”

Sources: University of Stellenbosch 
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