It is two weeks, give or take a few hours, since I landed in Joburg. The first week in South Africa was All about Alex: introducing Alex Usher, President of the firm I work for in Toronto, to a range of higher ed actors and experts in Cape Town, Pretoria and Johannesburg, and linking him up with some of the education consultants here, in this neck of the woods. Alex’s thesis is that Africa is the one part of the world where higher ed enrolments will be expanding massively over the next 20 years, and he wants HESA, his firm, to be part of the action. Not that he is new to the continent (he is new to South Africa) – already he has travelled quite widely, on projects for the World Bank and others. But South Africa is a potential entry-point, source of partners and expertise, and advanced laboratory for the challenges facing higher education elsewhere in Africa, so it made sense, when next I came to SA, for him to come with me. Which he did, and it went well. Mission accomplished.
This week’s mission has been completely different. The main event was a fairly high-level (and high stakes) workshop yesterday on South African and international (EU, especially) approaches to and experiences of skills planning, working with my excellent colleague (and I think I can say this) good friend Mike Campbell, a very wise and experienced expert and practitioner from the United Kingdom. In the run-up to the event, which was a significant success, I think, not least because of Mike’s excellent facilitation, we had researchers to meet and a research report to review and advise on, a project management committee meeting with the Department of Higher Education and Training and the European Union Delegation to manage and get some important decisions from, and of course egos, relationships and that incurable South African disease, politics and personalities to deal with.
We have survived, both of us, and Mike is off to Cape Town for a week or so’s holiday with his good wife, Janie, who flies out from the UK this evening. I have been taking today easy, but will have plenty on my plate tomorrow – a note for the record from the PMC meeting, a write-up of yesterday’s workshop deliberations – and then a weekend with my family here in Johannesburg before, on Sunday evening, beginning the long journey (and it is long, with an 8-hour layover in Amsterdam) home to my own beloved.