The UFS Schools Partnership Project (SPP) has been assisting schools in the Free State and the Eastern Cape through a mentorship project since 2012. It was initiated by then-Rector, Prof Jonathan Jansen, to improve the education and the quality of passes in previously disadvantaged schools.

The methodology entails a mentorship model with weekly visits by the mentors to the schools, assisting teachers in their classrooms and focusing on empowering teachers, rather than learners. This model supports sustainable development.

In 2016, we assisted more than 70 schools throughout the Free State and the Eastern Cape, with more than 30 mentors participating. Thousands of learners have already benefited from better education through the empowerment of teachers and school leadership.

We also have very good relationships with the Free State and Eastern Cape Departments of Education and regularly attend the meetings of the Free State District Management Team. Our subject mentors also attend meetings with the Subject Advisors of the areas in which they work.

The overall goals of the project are to:

  1. improve the academic achievement of secondary-school learners, especially in Mathematics, Physical Science, and Accounting/English (LOLT), through the empowerment of teachers
  2. develop these schools to have strong management leadership that is sustainable
  3. provide guidance to the schools to strengthen the social fibre of the schools and the communities they are in
  4. create optimal opportunities for students from targeted schools to access university

During our interactions with the schools, we found that many learners with excellent marks and great potential were not making it to tertiary institutions. We therefore started a project to identify these learners at an early stage and assist them through the process. All of the learners identified are the first in their family to gain access to university.

By shifting our focus in this way, the SPP has become a vehicle to alleviate poverty and to break the cycle in which many of these families find themselves trapped.

The figure below demonstrates the bigger picture:

UFS Schools Partnership Project (SPP)

In 2016, 24 second-year students and 74 first-year students studied at the UFS that would probably not have had the opportunity if it wasn’t for this project. Among these are medical, actuarial sciences, and law students. Three of these learners were awarded Golden Key status.