The University of Cape Town’s (UCT’s) law faculty, which has celebrated its 150th anniversary, is focused on becoming the leading law faculty in Africa, while bringing about social change.
As part of the 150th anniver- sary celebrations, it aims to raise R25-million in endowment funds to ensure that the faculty has the necessary resources each year. The campaign,which starts this year, is called Towards Sustainable Justice . It will run for three years, with two scholar- ship initiatives to attract top black South Africans to study law at UCT and to attract them to academia at UCT, through an LLM degree exchange programme with leading univers-ities worldwide.
The faculty, which has strong international links through out Africa, Europe and North America, attracts a substantial number of foreign academics and postgraduate students.
UCT reports that its faculty is also well placed to have a sub- stantial impact on the wider society in which it is situated, as well as the closer community in which it operates. This, it says, is the result of the faculty’s history and standing, both in South Africa and in the wider academic world, as well as its commitment to the maintenance of high-quality teaching and research, which has led to it being well recognised nationally and internationally.
The faculty is involved in a number of activities, which contribute towards the advancement of the broader community on local, national, regional and inter- national levels. A unique aspect of UCT’s LLB degree is the mandatory community service for all students, who must voluntarily complete 60 hours of unpaid service. This aims to create an awareness of the law as an instru- ment of social change. This awareness resulted in the creation of the Legal Welfare Community Organisation (Lawco), in 2008, when thousands of people across the country were displaced owing to xenophobic violence.
Lawco engages law students to teach school learners about their rights and those of everyone else in communities and how this awareness of the law could be used to improve their lives and change society. Lawco runs workshops on the practical aspects of the law for learners from grade 10 to grade 12 in the Cape Town metropolitan area, giving them a foundation of knowledge as well as skills to use in their everyday lives.
About 50 Lawco volunteers are trained to conduct one of the four legal education workshops prepared by the Lawco curriculum committee in consultation with law professors. The project also aims to sensitise future lawyers to the broader challenges within South Africa and to contribute to the development of South Africa’s constitutional democracy.
Lawco has specifically chosen school learners as it sees potential in changing how the law is used by targeting the youth, who will soon enter the workforce and actively participate in the country’s democracy. The organisation is planning on expanding the project to more schools this year and it will be adding a legal health division.
“Another significant student initiative is the student seminar for law and social justice, which held its third yearly three-day event with seven universities participating. This initiative enjoys our financial and moral support, which has been more than vindicated,” says UCT dean of law Professor Pamela Jane Schwikkard.
The faculty has also maintained its tradition of being engaged in research on social issues, with a number of faculty members involved in the work of the South African Law Reform Commission and many of the research units. These units regularly generate reports for use by both governments and nongovernmental organisations and their work has been applied nationally and internationally.