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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

Lithium-ion batteries research set to improve ordinary lives
2016-02-11

Description: Dr Lehlohonolo Koao  Tags: Dr Lehlohonolo Koao

Dr Koao is making a much-needed contribution in improving lives of ordinary people through his research on lithium-ion batteries.

The future of relevant and top-notch scientific research at the Qwaqwa Campus is in good hands. Dr Lehlohonolo Koao is one of the five members of the Vice-Chancellor’s Prestige Scholars Programme (PSP) on the Qwaqwa Campus.

The need to improve the efficiency of heating mechanisms in his immediate community in Qwaqwa, and the support he receives from the PSP, have become catalysts for his current research project on lithium-ion batteries. According to Dr Koao, the study will focus on producing batteries that last longer, store more energy, are cheaper to manufacture, and are environmentally friendly when being disposed of. These are key factors in solar energy.

‘’The majority of households in my neighbourhood have benefited from the government’s project of providing households with solar panels to help with lighting, cooking, and heating without worrying about the ever-increasing electricity costs,’’ said Dr Koao.

‘’Since my arrival in the area, I have realized that the heat absorption rate of the batteries used by solar panels is not enough. As a result, these batteries also lack enough power to sustain the supply throughout the day, especially on a cloudy day,’’ he said.

His research project focuses on improving the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries that are now commonly used in portable electronics, such as cell phones and laptops. This kind of battery is rapidly replacing the usual lead-acid batteries. Dr Koao’s determination to contribute towards a safer and more efficient heating absorption system has made him move away completely from his PhD study on lighting material.

‘’My previous study was on reducing the power usage on domestic and industrial lights as they use more electricity. This study, on the other hand, will enhance power retention in the batteries for improved daily life since cell phones, solar panels, and laptops, to mention only a few, are now a way of life,’’ he added.

Dr Koao is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Physics, where he specializes in solid state materials.

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