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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

Success of Schools Partnership Programme embodies essence of UFS
2016-01-04

Description: Schools Partnership programme Tags: Schools Partnership programme

The everyday function and subsequent success of the SPP have come to embody the very essence of the UFS: inspiring excellence; transforming lives.

Addressing the urgent need for quality education at school level, the University of the Free State (UFS) established the Schools Partnership Project (SPP) in 2012. The aim of the project has been to turn ineffective schools into institutions producing outstanding results, thereby increasing the number and quality of first-year students at the UFS.

Within three years, the SPP has grown to include 68 primary and secondary schools across the Free State and the Sterkspruit area in the Eastern Cape. The programme is headed by Dr Peet Venter and run from the UFS South Campus. Expert mentors assist teachers and principals at these schools on a weekly basis, helping them to excel at their core functions. The programme’s success has been phenomenal.

Learner results from the SPP schools show a marked improvement compared to previous years. Teachers report that they have gained a broader understanding of the subjects they teach. “The university is doing a great job with this programme,” says one of the teachers. “We have developed a lot. We really appreciate this partnership.” Teachers not only gain substantial expertise in areas of planning, presentation, and subject knowledge; an increasing number of them have been receiving promotions, too.

The principals experience similar positive results, and regard the SPP as a productive contribution to their schools. The project has also established closer cooperation between principals and schools. This enables them to achieve common goals, share knowledge, and deal with challenges together.

An added spin-off of the programme has been the increased involvement of parents and care-givers. “We experience much more involvement from the community,” says mentor Danie Nieuwenhuizen. Parents start to take it upon themselves to tidy school grounds, care for vegetable gardens, and prepare food at school feeding schemes. Even the Sustained Silent Reading programme – that supplies magazines to learners – is now having an impact on households and communities. Many homes have never had magazines or other reading material before the reading programme.

The everyday function and subsequent success of the SPP have come to embody the very essence of the UFS: inspiring excellence; transforming lives.

 

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