UWC’s UNESCO Chair Launches Globally, Advocating for Sport, Development, and Peace

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) hosted an intimate event this week to celebrate the appointment of Professor Marion Keim by UNESCO as its Chair in Sport, Development, Peace and Olympic Education. This Chair is situated at UWC and is the first in sport on the African continent.


In attendance at the event on 14 November were a host of local and international dignitaries, academics, friends, colleagues and family of Prof Keim, who was born in Germany but has now been in South Africa longer than she was in Europe. UWC, therefore, claims her not only as an alumnus but also as a South African who has done so much for goodwill and peace in particular.


Also among the audience were Lungi Morrison and Biso Tutu-Gxashe, grandchildren of the late, great Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who served as the UWC Chancellor for almost 25 years and was one of the global icons to whom Prof Keim attributes the inspiration for her work.


The evening started with a moment of silence called by Umesh Bawa, Director of the International Relations Office at UWC, to reflect on the loss of lives in the Gaza conflict.


During her tribute, an emotional Lungi Morrison said, “The Arch,’’ as he was affectionately known, “would be extremely saddened by the ongoing wars and genocide in different parts of the world. We’re still here, we’re still here despite everything our elders have done, despite what Prof Keim and our communities have done. We’re still in a world that needs love, peace, and healing. But today we celebrate sport and your efforts to bring forward these principles and values, and celebrate his legacy. We thank you as a family for honouring not only our grandfather’s legacy but our legacy as South Africans.’’


Delivering a keynote address, Professor Matete Madiba, UWC Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Student Development and Support, said the launch of the UNESCO Chair was a special occasion. ‘’This is a special Chair in many ways, but especially for the University of the Western Cape. We must be thankful that we have UNESCO. Through these types of arrangements – it’s like a soft infrastructure is being built for us to find ways to make life better. In higher education, we tend to get hyped up around the industrial revolution. But when it comes to peace, where are our efforts?’’ she asked.

During her address, Prof Keim said she was incredibly honoured and thanked her family, friends and colleagues for their support over many years, as well as UNESCO for allowing her to work in a field so close to her heart. “I would like to pay tribute to our former Chancellor, Archbishop Tutu, not only in my professional life but also in my personal life. Regarding this event, it’s important to have people with a similar values-based approach. So, I’m incredibly proud to have worked with a special group of people.”


Prof Keim said when they talk about sport and peace, it’s not only about peace and war that’s currently going on.


“It’s also about our physical peace, our mental peace, our spiritual peace and our emotional peace. So, when we talk about sport and peace, I’m looking at what we can do in using sport, physical activities and physical education to enhance what is missing in many ways and in many countries with regards to sport, development, peace and values-based quality education. “We hope you (here) in the room and those (watching live) online will join us on this amazing journey for many years to come, because only if we work together can we make it work at all. If we can learn to play together with respect, care, love, and with joy in sport, relationships, politics and life across borders locally and globally, then perhaps we can all learn to be on the same team and in the process, contribute to building a better world which we so desperately need.”


Philipp Muller-Wirth, Chair of the Sport Section at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, Prof. Ruksana Osman, Chair of the UNESCO Chair Forum, and Carlton Mukwevho, UNESCO Secretary General South Africa, were all abroad but shared their thoughts via video streaming in support of the inauguration of this special UNESCO Chair.


The event concluded with a panel discussion hosted by Prof Keim. Panelists included Motopi Rampedi (UNESCO SA), Prof Madiba, Dr Debbie Alexander (International Paralympic Committee), Advocate Dr Lyndon Bouah (Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport), Laetitia Permall (Centre for Student Support Services), and Dr Ben Sanders (Sportanddev).


*Prof Keim headed the Interdisciplinary Centre for Sport Sciences and Development at UWC (2009 – 2023), and has over three decades of experience in sport, peace, social transformation and development in academia and in the nonprofit sector, locally, on the continent and globally. Her association with UWC dates back to 1995 when she became the University’s first sports development officer and lecturer. She is also an alumnus of the UWC law faculty and an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa.



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