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02 May 2018 Photo Charl Devenish
South Campus UAP celebrates 27 years of access to education
Mr Francois Marais, Prof Kalie Strydom, Prof Daniella Coetzee (South Campus Principal), Prof Francis Petersen, Dr Nthabeleng Rammile (Vice-Chairperson of the UFS Council), and Dr Khotso Mokhele (Chancellor of the UFS).

More than 27 years ago, international funding from the Human Sciences Research Council and Anglo American was put to an unusual use for that time. Prof Kalie Strydom’s research unit at the University of the Free State (UFS) was tasked with reviewing how institutional missions would change in the new South Africa. Prof Strydom worked closely with surrounding communities in Bloemfontein to develop a bridging course which would help students who showed potential to access tertiary education, although they did not meet the requirements. His vision brought to birth the University Access Programme (UAP), as it is known today, which is hosted on the UFS South Campus, and is still providing unique access to higher-education institutions in South Africa.

People with a passion for human development
March 2018 saw the 27th anniversary of this remarkable initiative, which has given a second chance to over 18 000 students. Special guests at the event included Prof Strydom, Mr Francois Marais, and representatives from the Department of Higher Education and Training and Investec’s corporate social investment office.

Dr Sonja Loots, researcher in the UFS Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), singled out two key individuals in the formation of the UAP: Prof Kalie Strydom, who initiated the programme, and Mr Marais, who has been Director of the UAP since its inception. Dr Loots highlighted one of the driving forces behind Prof Strydom’s perseverance, vision, and determination with the UAP by quoting from an interview with him for an upcoming book on student access and success. He said, “It was a decision based on principle … to be part of the solution to a better country.”

Access and success still an issue today
In his presentation on the “Importance of Access”, Prof Francis Petersen, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the UFS, pointed out the vital role of access in South Africa, especially the value it offers for the betterment of the country’s people. However, he said that student success is also an issue, and institutions need to be accountable for it. Quoting Prof John Martin of the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Engineering, “We must be flexible on access, but robust on success.” Only by “closing the loop” in this way, can the UFS and other higher-education institutions ensure a valuable contribution to the economy of the country.

News Archive

UFS hosts sign language workshop to educate parents
2017-05-22

Description: Sign language workshop to educate parents Tags: Sign language workshop to educate parents

Back row; from left; John Keitsemore from
Bartimea School for the Deaf; Philip Cook,
the headmaster at De la Bat School for the
Deaf in Worcester; Jeannie Cook, De la Bat School
for the Deaf; front, from left; Marisa Vermeulen, mother
of two deaf children and teacher at Bartimea
School for the Deaf in Thaba Nchu; Marianne Kühn,
audiologist, and Susan Lombaard, acting Head of the
Department of South African Sign Language.
Photo: Rulanzen Martin

“Ninety percent of deaf children are born into hearing families. When parents first receive the news, they are shocked, angry and confused,” says Susan Lombaard, Acting head of the Department of South African Sign Language at the University of the Free State (UFS).

The department hosted a workshop, “Early intervention options for the child with a hearing loss”, on Friday 12 May 2017 on the Bloemfontein Campus. “It is the first time a sign language workshop of this kind was hosted by the Department of South African Sign Language at the UFS,” says Lombaard, who facilitated the workshop. They hope to make it an annual event.

Parents of deaf children do not always know how they will communicate with their children or where the child must attend school. The workshop aimed to provide parents with the necessary information on different communication options and also touched on school placement.

Support group for parents established
A support group for parents was also established, the first of its kind in the province. It will provide much-needed support, information and guidance for parents of deaf children.

Some of the speakers at the workshop included Anri Esterhuizen, an audiologist; Marianne Kühn from the Carel du Toit Centre, Marisa Vermeulen, who is a mother of two deaf children, and Phillip Cook, the headmaster at De la Bat School for the Deaf in Worcester, in the Western Cape. Jeannie Cook, also a presenter, provided information on sign language acquisition of the small deaf child, which is done through creative play.

Professionals have responsibility
South African Sign Language is a language in its own right and is not international. “Sign language is a visual language with its own grammar and syntax different from spoken language,” Lombaard said.

There has been much controversy surrounding teaching deaf children to speak and teaching them to sign. “We as professionals have the responsibility to provide information on all options. This is to help the parent make informed decisions about communication and school placement.”

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