I can’t agree more with the sentiments expressed by Rhodes Business School director Prof Owen Skae in his well-considered article on the future role of universities in creating growth opportunities and promoting innovation and prosperity in society (Universities should focus on growth of their cities, July 28).

During my travels in the US and UK, I was thoroughly impressed by High Tech High (HTH) in San Diego. Back in 2000, an educator named Larry Rosenstock successfully managed to convince a local businessman and group of San Diego civic leaders and educators to develop HTH in an old shipyard in San Diego. His vision was to create what he called "an equity project where teachers worked to address inequities and help students reach their full potential".

Although HTH started with just one charter school for 450 students, today it has about 5,300 students across three campuses. What HTH has accomplished through visionary leadership and civic activism is very instructive for what Rhodes University can accomplish in Grahamstown. Education is already the town’s anchor. As an institution of higher learning, surely Rhodes University has a vested interest in growing its own future timber.

Helping to develop a new charter school (for science, maths, technology, arts and information technology) as an "equity project" on the underused site of the old railway station, with a teacher credentialling programme anchored at Rhodes’ education department, will do more than help the university grow its future timber, in terms of students. An "equity project" of this nature will promote social cohesion and enhance the university’s reputation.

There are many other things the university can do. Together with the hospital, the prison and local schools, they could use their food budgets to grow local farming with an aggregator based in Grahamstown to create employment. The university could also create an incubator to promote social enterprise, entrepreneurship and empowerment of local people with business management skills.

Mpumelelo Ncwadi Via e-mail

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