The Hermanus Varsity Trust (HVT) commenced operations this week when 33 students, supported by 15 volunteer tutors, began the course ‘Introduction to Local Economic Development (LED)’, a three-month short-learning programme accredited by the University of Johannesburg.

The first students to enrol at Hermanus Varsity.

The students and tutors were introduced at a welcoming function on Thursday 8 August, held at the HVT Hub, a historic building that was formerly a synagogue.

Hermanus resident, Johan Visser, the former CEO of Pep Stores in South Africa and Brown & Jackson PLC in the UK, addressed the students and urged them to make the most of their studies. Recalling his own background growing up in poverty, Johan reflected on the efforts his parents made. “The only opportunity they gave me was to study,” he said.

Each student received a Hermanus Varsity welcome package.

Johan has pledged R3.75 million to HVT to cover 50% of the estimated operating costs over the next three years. “A number of people are going to think I’m crazy. We’ve got our critics. We have to prove them wrong,” he said.

“Everybody is always trying to find faults instead of opportunities. This is what distinguishes an entrepreneur – looking for opportunities,” said Johan, who added that it was the inspirational talk by Dr Sindiwe Magona – writer, educationist, cultural ambassador, social activist – at the March 2019 HVT ribbon-cutting ceremony that motivated him to make his pledge.

Delana Finlayson, the CEO of HVT, reminded the audience that it is only a year since the idea of an institution for tertiary studies in the Overstrand was first mooted by Theo Krynauw of Sparklekids, William Ntebe of the Zwelihle Youth Café and Emeritus Professor John de Gruchy of the Volmoed Retreat Centre. “Immediately, the dream was born and HVT is happening now. It always seems impossible until it’s done. It’s only the first step but we should celebrate it,” she said.

Professor Marius Venter, who has designed the LED course for HVT, said, “The whole idea of this course is to open up your vision,” and reminded the students that “lifelong learning is the foundation of LED”.

Marius also told the students that they were now not just part of the University of Johannesburg community of 55 000 students but of the wider LED community as well.

Solly Madikane, Overstrand Municipality Director: Economic Development and Tourism, also gave a presentation to the students that outlined why LED was so important to the growth of communities.

At the end of the course, successful students achieving 50% or more for their assignment will be awarded a Certificate of Competence by the University of Johannesburg. The certificates will be awarded at the HVT certification ceremony in March 2020.

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