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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 research sheds light on service delivery protests in South Africa
2015-01-23

UFS research sheds light on service delivery protests in South Africa

Service delivery protests in the country have peaked during 2014, with 176 major service delivery protests staged against local government across South Africa.

A study by the University of the Free State (UFS) found that many of these protests are led by individuals who previously held key positions within the ANC and prominent community leaders. Many of these protests involved violence, and the destruction had a devastating impact on the communities involved.

This study was done by Dr Sethulego Matebesi, researcher and senior lecturer at the UFS. He focused his research on the dynamics of service delivery protests in South Africa.

Service delivery protests refer to the collective taken by a group of community members which are directed against a local municipality over poor or inadequate provision of basic services, and a wider spectrum of concerns including, for example, housing, infrastructural developments, and corruption.

These protests increased substantially from about 10 in 2004 to 111 in 2010, reaching unprecedented levels with 176 during 2014.

The causes of these protests are divided into three broad categories: systemic (maladministration, fraud, nepotism and corruption); structural (healthcare, poverty, unemployment and land issues); and governance (limited opportunities for civic participation, lack of accountability, weak leadership and the erosion of public confidence in leadership).

In his research, Dr Matebesi observed and studied protests in the Free State, Northern Cape and the North-West since 2008. He found that these protests can be divided into two groups, each with its own characteristics.

“On the one side you have highly fragmented residents’ groups that often use intimidation and violence in predominantly black communities. On the other side, there are highly structured ratepayers’ associations that primarily uses the withholding of municipal rates and taxes in predominantly white communities.”

 

Who are the typical protesters?

Dr Matebesi’s study results show that in most instances, protests in black areas are led by individuals who previously held key positions within the ANC - prominent community leaders. Generally, though, protests are supported by predominantly unemployed, young residents.

“However, judging by election results immediately after protests, the study revealed that the ANC is not losing votes over such actions.”

The study found that in the case of the structured ratepayers’ associations, the groups are led by different segments of the community, including professionals such as attorneys, accountants and even former municipal managers.

Dr Matebesi says that although many protests in black communities often turned out violent, protest leaders stated that they never planned to embark on violent protests.

“They claimed that is was often attitude (towards the protesters), reaction of the police and the lack of government’s interest in their grievances that sparked violence.”

Totally different to this is the form of peaceful protests that involves sanctioning. This requires restraint and coordination, which only a highly structured group can provide.

“The study demonstrates that the effects of service delivery protests have been tangible and visible in South Africa, with almost daily reports of violent confrontations with police, extensive damage to property, looting of businesses, and at times, the injuring or even killing of civilians. With the increase of violence, the space for building trust between the state and civil society is decreasing.”

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