Education sector mourns Prof Peliwe Lolwana’s death

The education sector is mourning the sudden passing of accomplished academic and leader Professor Peliwe Lolwana.

Lolwana, who was chairperson of the South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa), passed away on December 17.

First CEO of Umalusi

She was the first CEO of the Quality Council for General and Further Education and Training (Umalusi). The esteemed academic was appointed leader of Umalusi in 2000 and headed the quality assurance body until her retirement in 2008.

Umalusi spokesperson Biki Lepota said Lolwana was at Umalusi on November 24. She came to give a tribute speech at a memorial lecture and roundtable discussion organised in honour of the late Dr Fred Calitz.  Calitz was the first CEO the South African Certification Council (Safcert), the predecessor to Umalusi.  Lolwana succeeded Calitz as Safcert CEO.

“Little did we know that she had come to say goodbye to all of us,” said Lepota in a statement.

“While she reached her statutory retirement age over 15 years ago,  Lolwana continued to serve her own country in various roles. Those included chairing the board of Saqa and the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations Council,” said Lepota.

Key transformation role

“She played a transformational role in each and every position that she held; shaping the form and focus of all the organisations that she led. This assertion is supported by the people who worked closely with her,” he said.

Wits University, where Lolwana  served as director of the Centre for Researching Education and Labour (REAL), also expressed its sadness at her passing.

“She led the centre, renowned for its cutting-edge research, teaching programmes and support to policy makers and regulatory institutions in areas of theoretical, practical, and policy concern. [This] focused on the complex relationships between education, knowledge, work, the economy and society – with an aim to promote social, economic and ecological sustainability and a more just society,” Wits said a statement.

Post-retirement work

Lolwana, who retired recently as REAL’s director, continued to serve as a visiting associate professor in the Wits School of Education.

Saqa said Lolwana was a rare breed; an esteemed academic and visionary policy maker. “She was also endowed with extremely quick wit, which would often be displayed to the world on her boardroom outfit (her famous slogan T-shirts!),” Saqa said in a statement.

Saqa CEO Nadia Starr said she was devastated by the sudden passing of Lolwana.  

“She inspired transformation and rebirth at Saqa and was my mentor and guide in these first 12 months at the helm. I relied on her wise council and sharp intellect as well as her absolute forthrightness to steer this organisation, and will miss her deeply.

“We will continue steadfastly on our path of review and reflection in her memory,” said Starr.

Learned scholar

Lolwana had a PhD in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts in the US.  Her research interests were in the areas of youth employment; informality; skills development; vocational and adult education; assessment; quality assurance, ICTs and skills development, Informal sector; agriculture and economic development, community education, and in general post-school education.

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