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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

There’s more to media freedom than the Secrecy Bill
2012-05-04

4 May 2012

 “Media freedom is a universal human right. It cannot be abolished, but it should be managed.” The freedom of the media is protected by numerous formal documents, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the South African Constitution, and is commemorated annually with the celebration of World Press Freedom Day.

 “As long as those in power have something to hide, media freedom will be under threat. This is a war that takes place on many fronts,” says Ms Willemien Marais, a journalism lecturer at the Department of Communication Science at the University of the Free State (UFS).

“On the one hand we have to take a stand against institutional threats such as the proposed Protection of State Information Bill. This is diametrically opposed to everything that media freedom and freedom of expression encapsulates.

“But on the other hand we also need to educate and transform our society. It is not only up to journalists to defend media freedom. Newspaper reports on the public hearings on this Bill earlier this year proved that ignorance concerning media freedom is a big threat. The lack of resistance against the Secrecy Bill from the general population clearly illustrates that people aren’t aware of what they are about to lose.”

 Ms Marais says the rise of social media and the accompanying awareness of individual freedom of expression have paved the way for more people to exercise this right. “The role of social media in the Arab Spring has been highlighted numerous times. The power of social media is undeniable – but alas, so is the lack of access to especially social media. We can only increase media literacy if we increase people’s access to the media – new and traditional.”

A high level of media literacy is also vital following last month’s recommendation by the Press Freedom Commission of a system of independent co-regulation for South Africa’s print media. This system proposes replacing government regulation with a panel consisting of representatives from the print industry as well as members of the general public. “It is abundantly clear that this system can only work if those members of the general public are media literate and understand the role of media freedom in protecting democracy.”

“The media is not a sentient being – it consists of and is run by people, and human beings are fallible. Protecting media freedom does not only mean fighting institutional threats. It also means increasing media literacy by educating people. And it means owning up to your mistakes, and correcting it.” 

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