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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

Penny Siopis recipient of the prestigious Helgaard Steyn Award
2015-12-15

Vanya Terblance (ABSA Trust representative) hands over the award to Penny Siopis
Photo: Valentino Ndaba

On Friday 4 December 2015, Penny Siopis, the well-known Cape Town-based artist, who has been exhibiting her work locally and internationally since 1975, was presented with the 2015 Helgaard Steyn Award and a prize of R 550 000 for her painting entitled Swarm.

A quadrennial award lunch was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) Johannes Stegman Gallery in conjunction with the Helgaard Steyn and ABSA Trusts. The Helgaard Steyn Trust was established by the estate of Dr Jan Steyn and was named after his father and his brother who was the last president of the Orange Free State Republic.

Swarm, a 2011 painting using ink and glue on canvas, depicts a swarm of bees in a complex, dynamic, and intense manner. It earned the prestigious award that is dedicated to the promotion of artistic culture based on the adjudicators’ unanimous decision. Angela de Jesus, curator of the Johannes Stegmann Art Gallery at the UFS, Annali Dempsey of the University of Johannesburg Gallery, and Prof John Botha, Associate Professor in Art History at North West University, made up the 2015 panel of judges.

On receiving the award, Siopis thanked the Steyn family, the judges, and the people who nominated her. “I am struck by how fantastic it feels to be acknowledged. It is extraordinary when people are struck by what was your own world and the intensity buzzing in your head.”

According to Prof Botha, “Naturally the work of art is chosen on grounds of artistic merit and in the context of contemporary values with regards to both form and content.”

The award-winning painter studied Fine Arts at Rhodes University and Portsmouth University in United Kingdom. Apart from lecturing Fine Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, she is an honorary professor at University of Cape Town Michaelis School of Fine Art. She has also taught at the Natal Technicon in Durban.

Siopis has received numerous awards for her work, including a British Council Scholarship, a Merit Award at the 2nd Cape Town Triennial, and the Atelier Award for a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, in addition to the Alexander S Onassis fellowship for research in Greece.

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