UJ CFO Nolwazi Mamorare: No student should be left behind

CFO Nolwazi Mamorare steering the University of Johannesburg through the Covid-19 storm.

For CFO Nolwazi Mamorare, the Covid-19 pandemic was a real test of the University of Johannesburg’s business continuity plans. “Our goal was that the academic year must not be lost and that no student should be left behind,” she said at the Finance Indaba Network.

“Fortunately, we began investing in blended learning some time ago. This meant that we were able to open the academic term only one week later than the calendar. We are also able to complete our academic year, which is unusual compared to other universities.”

The university negotiated discounted data rates for students and leaned on corporate sponsors for laptop donations. “We accommodate some of the poorest students in the country. We could not let them be disadvantaged due to a lack of data or computer equipment,” she said.

But, the pandemic was not the first event to test the university’s resilience and adaptability. During the 2015 #feesmustfall student campaign, UJ lost only one academic day to protest. This was because UJ was ahead of the game in financially supporting its students, owing, in large part, to the efforts of Nolwazi’s team. At the time she served as executive director in charge of financial governance and revenue at the university.

“When I joined in 2014, part of my portfolio was student finance. At the time, we weren’t actively going out to seek funding to address the needs of the students. We were solely reliant on NSFAS, which wasn’t sufficiently funded at the time. I started a campaign for the missing middle – those that weren’t poor enough or rich enough to receive funding. I am proud of the R700 million we’ve managed to raise since that time,” Nolwazi said in an interview with CFO South Africa in 2019.

In 2017, she was appointed as acting CFO, and the position was made permanent in May 2018. She is extremely grateful for her experience in financial governance and revenue. “It allowed me to see the bigger picture, which is quite important for any CFO of any institution. If you walk in blindly from outside the sector, it’s easy to miss the important issues.”

Read more: University of Johannesburg’s Nolwazi Mamorare: The power of purpose

Nolwazi predicted that universities will evolve to offer continued value to students. “We expect that a hybrid model of contact and online learning will emerge. We will need to cost this model differently. We must also compete for students with international online universities. The digital world makes these studying options open to local students.”

From a personal perspective, balancing a full-time job and supervising school work schedules for her two children was difficult for Nolwazi. She predicts that companies will be more open to flexible work arrangements and she believes that parents will benefit. “A more flexible approach provides an opportunity for mothers and fathers to spend more time with their children. This is a huge win for society,” she said at the Finance Indaba.

To see the full Impact Session and more, visit https://finance-indaba.vfairs.com/.