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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

Triumph of the Human Spirit – a symbol of hope
2015-08-24

Ahmed Kathrada discusses his latest book, Triumph of the Human Spirit.
Photo: Johan Roux

“A triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness; a triumph of the new South Africa over the old.” – Ahmed Kathrada

Ahmed Kathrada, stalwart of South Africa’s liberation struggle, visited the Bloemfontein Campus on 18 August 2015 to launch his latest book, Triumph of the Human Spirit. Turning page after page, the reader travels back with Uncle Kathy – as he is fondly known – to revisit Robben Island with the more than 300 guests he has accompanied since 1994. With each photo – be it a celebrity or school child, head of state or famous artist, friend or royalty – the significance of the island is eternalised, right alongside Ahmed Kathrada.

Message of triumph
“Why this specific title for the book?” Prof André Keet, Director of the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice (IRSJ), asked during the book launch. “Robben Island,” Kathrada answered, “should not be remembered only as a place of suffering – that’s history. But the message of Robben Island is the message of triumph – triumph of the human spirit over all sorts of adversities.”

Speaking about Kathrada’s quiet but profound impact, Zaakirah Vadi, editor of the book, said “I think Uncle Kathy does not realise what an inspiration his own strength of spirit is”. The fight for human values and dignity was “honed and perfected in the cells of Robben Island,” she said. “It created the vision for a new South Africa and, as Uncle Kathy puts it, the triumph of the new South Africa over the old.”

UFS surprises Ahmed Kathrada with a birthday cake.
Photo: Johan Roux

Freedom was sacrifice
This triumph was not achieved without a cost, though. “No freedom comes on a platter,” Kathrada said. “Freedom was fought for. Freedom was sacrifice. Through the sacrifices of those who did not survive, we are still here to tell the story.”

And that is exactly what Triumph of the Human Spirit does. As Kgalema Motlanthe writes in the foreword, “This book serves as a preservation of history and a symbol of hope.”

Birthday celebration
Just as the event seemed to come to a close, members of the Student Representative Council carried a candle-lit cake – shaped in the number 86 – toward Kathrada. This surprise was organised by the UFS to celebrate his birthday on 21 August 2015. And, as the audience cheered and sang, Kathrada’s smile spread like a light across the hall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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