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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

MSc student plans to FEED our hungry planet
2015-01-27

Photo: Hannes Pieterse

Since attending the 2014 Youth Ag-Summit in Canada, Lisa Coetzee – an MSc student in Plant Pathology in the Department of Plant Sciences at our university – developed a plan to address hunger:

FEED – Forum of Education, Empowerment and Development.

Coetzee, together with a junior lecturer at Plant Sciences, Marguerite Westcott, started this student association to tackle the issue of food insecurity head-on.

Education, empowerment and development “are keywords vital to the solutions to poverty. Hunger is an issue which is found in our own homes. One in every four South Africans is food insecure. Hunger kills more people every year than Aids, malaria and TB combined,” says Coetzee.

“This forum allows awareness to be raised about the hunger situation locally and globally. FEED is talking about hunger and it is assisting in reducing it by reaching out to communities which are in need.

“FEED is the generation which is going to make a difference in eradicating hunger,” Coetzee continues. “We want students to think about how they can feed the hungry through what they are studying”. For Coetzee it is a high priority to ensure that the youth are aware of the importance to feed our hungry planet in a sustainable way.

Her philosophy on relieving hunger and increasing food safety is to enhance the efficiency of crop production, ensure crop security and reduce mycotoxins in the food we eat.

During the 2014 summit, Coetzee was elected to represent the African delegates on the Youth Ag Summit Committee. Ever since, she has been enthusiastically active in the agricultural community. As 43% of the globe’s farmers are women, Coetzee also feels she acts as a voice for female farmers in South Africa.

An important lesson Coetzee has learned is that there is power in one person to make a change – that we should start small but think big.

If you would like to get involved in this project, contact Lisa Coetzee on +27(0)51 401 9681 or email coetzeela@ufs.ac.za.

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