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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

Africa's Black Rhino conservation strategy must change
2017-07-10

 Description: Black Rhino Tags: conservation strategy, black rhino, Nature Scientific Reports, National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, extinction, decline in genetic diversity, Prof Antoinette Kotze, Research and Scientific Services, Dr Desire Dalton 

The black rhino is on the brink of extinction. The study that was 
published in the Nature Scientific Reports reveals that the
species has lost an astonishing 69% of its genetic variation. 
Photo: iStock

The conservation strategy of the black rhino in Africa needs to change in order to protect the species from extinction, a group of international researchers has found. The study that was published in the Nature Scientific Reports reveals that the species has lost an astonishing 69% of its genetic variation. 

South African researchers took part 

The researchers, which included local researchers from the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG), have highlighted the fact that this means the black rhino is on the brink of extinction. "We have found that there is a decline in genetic diversity, with 44 of 64 genetic lineages no longer existing," said Prof Antoinette Kotze, the Manager of Research and Scientific Services at the Zoo in Pretoria. She is also affiliate Professor in the Department of Genetics at the University of the Free State and has been involved in rhino research in South Africa since the early 2000s.  

DNA from museums and the wild 
The study compared DNA from specimens in museums around the world, which originated in the different regions of Africa, to the DNA of live wild animals. The DNA was extracted from the skin of museum specimen and from tissue and faecal samples from animals in the wild. The research used the mitochondrial genome.

"The rhino poaching ‘pandemic’
needs to be defeated, because
it puts further strain on the genetic
diversity of the black rhino.”


Ability to adapt 
Dr Desire Dalton, one of the collaborators in the paper and a senior researcher at the NZG, said the loss of genetic diversity may compromise the rhinos’ ability to adapt to climate change. The study further underlined that two distinct populations now exists on either side of the Zambezi River. Dr Dalton said these definite populations need to be managed separately in order to conserve their genetic diversity. The study found that although the data suggests that the future is bleak for the black rhinoceros, the researchers did identify populations of priority for conservation, which might offer a better chance of preventing the species from total extinction. However, it stressed that the rhino poaching ‘pandemic’ needs to be defeated, because it puts further strain on the genetic diversity of the black rhino. 

Extinct in many African countries 
The research report further said that black rhino had been hunted and poached to extinction in many parts of Africa, such as Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Sudan, and Ethiopia. These rhino are now only found in five African countries. They are Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Namibia, and South Africa, where the majority of the animals can be found. 

 

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