On Friday 25 March 2022, the Centre for Human Rights hosted an official ceremony to welcome and introduce the students of its Master’s students from three different programmes. This is an annual event, which was hosted in person after 2 years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centre for Human Rights presents extensive human rights education programmes with a pan-African focus, for which it has been awarded the UNESCO Prize for Human Rights Education (2006) and the African Union/African Commission Human Rights NGO Prize (2012). While there is still a lot to be done to for the realisation of human rights and democratisation in Africa, the Centre for Human Rights’ Master’s Programmes have helped unleash a powerful force for change, a momentum that needs to be supported for it to be sustainable.
The following programmes are presented in 2022:
LLM/MPhil Human Rights & Democratisation in Africa
The class consists of 26 students who come from all over the continent; it is highly competitive master’s programme. It is one of the flagship programmes at the Centre for Human Rights and at the University of Pretoria. The HRDA programme was established to develop capacity among African legal and other experts in the field of human rights and democratisation, in order to strengthen national and regional structures that deal with human rights and democracy. It is presented in partnership with 12 African universities drawn from all the sub-regions of Africa.
LLM/MPhil Sexual & Reproductive Rights in Africa
This is a two-year programme offered as a blended learning course comprising of online interaction and residential block-weeks in Pretoria. This was the first Masters programme of its type at the University and in 2022, 15 students are registered for this programme.
LLM/MPhil in Multi-Disciplinary Human Rights
This programme, which has 14 students in 2022, is designed for people who work full time and still want to study. The classes are offered every week in the evening between 5 and 8pm.
The event was attended by eminent personalities, from academics to human rights activists, government officials, University of Pretoria staff and members of the diplomatic corps.
The Vice Chancellor and Principal, Prof Tawana Kupe, officially welcomed the guests on behalf of the University and expressed pride in the Centre’s Master’s programmes and its alumni. During this occasion, he also presented a book in honour of Prof Frans Viljoen, written by some of his former doctoral graduates. The Dean of the Faculty of Law, Prof Elsabe Schoeman highlighted that the human rights education the students benefit from provides them with the awareness and knowledge needed to fulfil the responsibility to uphold all rights, inherently individual and collective human rights.
Ambassador Kionka, Head of European Union Delegation in Pretoria, addressed the students on behalf of donors and encouraged the students to become champion of human rights.
Graduates, Janet Gbam and Salima Namusobya encouraged the students to take advantage of the opportunities at the Centre, create meaningful connections with their colleagues and ultimately understand the important role they have to play in promoting human rights on the continent.
During her keynote speech, Her Excellency Ambassador Dr Namira Negm, the Legal Counsel of the African Union, reiterated the vision of the founding parents of the Organisation of African Unity (now African Union) to change the world and make it a better place, which led to the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. She highlighted the importance of studying human rights and reminded the students that they need to try to continue the work of the founding parents with the same passion and commitment in order to create a better tomorrow. She further made reference to the International Court of Justice’s case of the Legal Consequences of the Separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 to demonstrate that we are still paying the price for independence from our colonisers. She concluded her remarks by stating that no one can understand the problems of our continent better than us and the solution is in our hands.
In closing, Prof Frans Viljoen, the Director of the Centre for Human Rights acknowledged the support of colleagues who are instrumental in upholding the high reputation of the Master’s programmes from year to year. He thanked the students for choosing the programmes of the Centre for Human Rights and asked them to take in every moment of their Masters' journey, allow themselves to be moulded by it, and come out even better than when they started out in January 2022, both as nicer persons and better professionals.