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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

Female-headed households more prone to economic strains due to rainfall variations
2016-02-02

Description: Martin Flatø  Tags: Martin Flatø

Martin Flatø
Photo: University of Oslo press

Research shows that a total of 41 % of South African (SA) households are led by women, and these households are twice as likely to be poor compared to other households.

Martin Flatø spent three months at University of the Free State (UFS), researching how female-headed households in our country are affected by variations in rainfall, which cause crop failures with their implications for rural economies.

He is a PhD student from the University of Oslo in Norway who was part of the 2014/15 Southern African Young Scientists Summer Programme (SA-YSSP) that was hosted by the UFS last year.

Flatø formed part of a group of international scholars who conducted research on how families led by females are affected by climate change. The group focused on the implications of the weather on crop failures and rural economies. Gender and household structures were studied to determine ways in which they are affected by economic fluctuations.
 
The research group’s preliminary findings indicate that female-headed households are more vulnerable to rainfall variation than households where there are adult residents or workers of both genders.

In view of the current water shortage in the Free State, as well as scientists’ projections that our country will be among the regions hardest hit by climate change in terms of a surge in temperature, Flatø’s collaborative research has substantial relevance.|

Grooming first class scientists
The SA-YSSP is a joint initiative of South African National Research Foundation and the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA). Its main aim is tackling challenges faced by the world at large and South Africa in particular.

Out of 24 PhD students from 18 countries and various academic disciplines, Flatø emerged as one of only three scholars to be awarded the Systems Analysis Scholarships for his outstanding science at the end of the programme.

World class mentorship
Prof André Pelser and Dr Raya Muttarak were Flatø’s SA-YSSP supervisors. Prof Pelser, of the UFS Department of Sociology, is a leading academic on population processes, and how they relate to local environmental issues in South Africa. Dr Muttarak is a research scholar at IIASA in Austria.

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