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HomeAfrica-NewsInternational Peace College of South Africa (IPSA) welcomes its first Master's graduates

International Peace College of South Africa (IPSA) welcomes its first Master’s graduates

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The International Peace College of South Africa (IPSA) held its postgraduate ceremony on Friday last week at the Islamia College auditorium in Lansdowne, Cape Town. The Rylands-based university, established in 2005, has made great strides since its inception and expanded its programs to include a master’s degree.
The celebration on November 4 was the graduation ceremony for the first promotion of students who successfully completed their master’s degrees.

With the academic procession lining up in the foyer and descending the steps of the auditorium, the ceremony opened and graduation began. The master of ceremonies, Taj Akleker, welcomed all the esteemed guests and the entire auditorium stood up for the National Anthem. Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels, Head of the Da’wah Department of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), replaced Sheikh Irafaan Abrahams, President of the MJC of the MJC, to recite the opening prayer.

The official opening was delivered by IPSA President Hafiz Advocate Abubakr Mohamed and was followed by a keynote address by Dr. Shaheedah Essack, Director of the Department of Higher Education.

Essack is responsible for ensuring that qualifying private higher institutions are registered and continue to comply with regulations. She explains that during the time when some public universities were closing their theology faculties and departments, IPSA managed to register as a private Islamic higher institution, making it one of the first Islamic universities in the country.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Shaheedah Essack, Director of the Department of Higher Education.

“I think this is a great achievement because there were a lot of obstacles to overcome,” he said. Essack is a member of the accreditation committee and knows firsthand what the challenges are. “Starting an organization from scratch and building it up to where it is today requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice, and I think IPSA has done a great job.”

Looking at it broadly and more substantively, a master’s degree enhances and deepens understanding in any field, Essack said.

“As you deepen your understanding of the discipline, it is also an obligation, whether we view it morally, spiritually, educationally, and financially. There is an obligation that this knowledge be transmitted to others and that this process be sustained and sustainable”. An advanced level graduate degree prepares graduates for their chosen direction, plus there is a requirement that students give back to the community on several levels. This is where IPSA plays an important role.

Essack said IPSA’s role is linked to the historical legacy of the community that received the teachings of Islam through slaves brought to the Cape 350 years ago. These slaves overcame extraordinary challenges and obstacles and succeeded in establishing Islam in the community. That rich legacy should not be lost.

Following the opening speech, bachelor’s certificates were handed out, followed by master’s degrees.

The university received its accreditation in 2013 and has enjoyed a positive track record, culminating in the accreditation and registration of all its programs with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

The school has four fully accredited programs. There are two undergraduate programmes, an advanced certificate in Islamic Studies, ideal for students taking a gap year when they are unsure of their future plans, says IPSA Executive Director Dr. Dawood Terblanche. The second program is a more specialized three-year degree in Islamic studies, specializing in Islamic and Arabic law.

Dr. Dawood Terblanche, Executive Director of the International College for Peace in South Africa (IPSA).

There are also two graduate programs. This year, IPSA had 17 master’s graduates in Islamic Studies and six earned their master’s degree in Islamic Thought.

Since IPSA’s accreditation, the staff has been designing and developing new programs to add to its portfolio of offerings. A milestone for this boutique university is being the first fully accredited and registered private Islamic tertiary institution in South Africa. The founders recognized the need to serve both the Muslim community and professionals within the Muslim community and filled the void with the programs they have established.

The next step is to have a Ph.D. to add to your list of options. The graduate department welcomes and facilitates the application of students from diverse professional backgrounds. “You can enter the postgraduate program with a qualification in, for example, law, engineering or medicine, so that you gain a solid grounding in various modules that will enhance your understanding of Islam,” says Terblanche.

A narrative of learning Islamic studies in the form of previous classes students might have attended helps get your application accepted. Applicants will then be required to write about their own journey and development of Islamic knowledge and once the portfolio is approved by the graduate department, they will enter the program through the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) agreement.

The RPL for Islamic Studies is based on the informal studies an applicant may have in addition to a conventional professional degree. The master’s program is structured in eight modules where students delve into specialized knowledge of Islam. Once students complete all eight modules, they are eligible to start with a mini dissertation of between 25,000 and 30,000 words. The dissertation is sent to external examiners. Once the thesis is reviewed by external examiners and all corrections are made, students pass with a master’s degree in Islamic Thought.

Terblanche encourages students to pursue graduate degrees with IPSA as it helps students build themselves holistically.

Not only do they have people with traditional Islamic studies degrees entering a graduate program, but they have seen quite a few students from other major disciplines as well. Those professionals can enhance what they are currently doing with an understanding of Islam.

This program is based on the highest goals of Islam, which is the preservation of life, religion, intellect, honor and dignity.

“When they operate in their specialized fields, whatever that may be, they have a very strong, solid foundation of Islamic studies to support what they are already doing within their discipline and field,” he said.

IPSA programs are fully accredited and registered with the Department of Education, so when a graduate comes from other Islamic institutions of learning, they still need to go through a process to enter NQF level 7, which is the undergraduate level. With IPSA grades the students are already entered in the database.

“We are a little ahead of what the other institutions are doing,” Terblanche said.

Ismail A Kalla, the recipient of the IPSA Lifetime Achievement Award.

Before closing graduation, the IPSA Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Ismail A. Kalla, one of the board members who served the institution for some 20 years, ever since IPSA was known as the Islamic College of Southern Africa ( ICOSA).

Kalla said that he had been caught off guard by receiving this award and was very pleasantly surprised. “It’s always important to do the right thing…recognition isn’t important but I appreciate it,” he said.

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