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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

Prisca Odero awarded ASA Presidential Fellowship
2015-02-17

Dr Odero (on the right) pictured with Suzanne Baazet, ASA Executive Director at the Awards Ceremony.

Dr Prisca Odero, a Centre for Africa Studies (CAS) fellow, received the African Studies Association (ASA) Presidential Fellow award in Indianapolis, USA, recently.

She was nominated for ASA by Dr Cyril Obi from the Social Science Research Council (New York), and was selected competitively, based on her PhD thesis and applied research work in rural development in Africa. Odero obtained her PhD in Africa Studies from the UFS at the July 2014 Graduation Ceremony.

On 22 November 2014, Dr Odero gave a public lecture at the Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. The event was hosted by the Political Science Department at the College.

Her paper, titled Sources and role of social capital in smallholder agricultural production: The value of membership of community groups to Zimbabwe rural livelihoods, sought to address the question of whether social capital contributed to the resilience of rural households in the face of economic difficulties and food security challenges. Dr Odero argued that the link between social capital and agricultural production is manifest in the ways in which farmers use social capital derived from membership of groups to alleviate agricultural production challenges.

Smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe, who face constraints in acquiring the necessary resources for production because of failing markets and reduced agri-industry productive capacity, employ a range of methods to deal with these challenges.  She presented an analysis of data collected through focus group discussions with representative groups and through a household survey.

Dr Odero’s research forms part of a book project. While books on agricultural development knowledge do exist, more studies analysing issues and offering solutions from an African perspective would help to address the gap in African knowledge production.

 

For more information or enquiries contact news@ufs.ac.za

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