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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

First-year wellbeing a top priority at Harmony residence
2017-06-07

Description:First-year wellbeing a top priority at Harmony residence Tags: First-year wellbeing a top priority at Harmony residence

Ladies from the House Harmony, a unique residence
that focuses on first-years’ experience.
Photo: Supplied

A unique residence that focuses on first-years’ experience, is exactly what Harmony sets out to provide for all first-year students at the University of the Free State.

A residence focusing on mentoring

Entering the adult world can be a daunting experience, but Harmony, unlike other residences on campus, focuses on mentoring. Harmony came to life in 2014 and has assisted many first-years in adapting to the university environment.

According to Pulane Malefane, Residence Head of House Harmony, they have witnessed a significant change in the pass rate of first-year students. “We have realised that first-years gain confidence much quicker than in other residences where they still need to find their way around seniors,” she says.

Adapting to the varsity environment

Harmony makes use of a Residence Assistants (RA) system, not Residence Committees (RC). The RA stay in corridors with their mentees in order to have close contact with them. An RA’s primary role is to be a mentor to first-years and also expose them to different co-curriculum activities on campus. They assist them in adapting to the varsity environment quicker, so as to be able to focus and concentrate on their academics.

Nicole Rabe, RA First-years, says the Harmony belles never cease to amaze her. “Watching these first-years grow from the high school girls that arrived at the start of this year, to the independent women they are now, has truly been a blessing.”

Malefane mentions that they intentionally try to place students from one faculty in the same corridor. In that way, mentors and residence assistants are in close proximity to them. “We have study rooms in each and every corridor of Harmony, making it easy for students to study close to their rooms at any time,” she says.

Phathutshodzo Nekhavanmbe, a first-year LLB student, says she could not have asked for a better house to be placed in. “The Harmony experience has been great so far, as the people living there are approachable and eager to lend a helping hand.”

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