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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

UFS provides sign language skills to locals
2016-02-12

Description: UFS provides sign language skills to locals  Tags: Sign language

Susan Lombaard teaching at one of the sessions
Photo: Valentino Ndaba

The public and private sectors are becoming more aware of the need for effective communication between employers, employees, and clients who use Sign Language. Given that Sign Language is the first language of approximately 600 000 people in South Africa, competence in the language means taking the first step towards more inclusive service delivery.
 
Shout Out Loud - a project that promotes Sign Language - has signed up Bloemfontein Celtics, Centlec, Beyond Boundaries, and the Mangaung Municipality on a Basic South African Sign Language course at the University of the Free State.
 
No miscommunication
 
Susan Lombaard, the Acting Head at the Department of South African Sign Language, was one of the lecturers who presented the 40-hour accredited course every Friday from 15 January-12 February 2016. Other lecturers who were responsible for training were Emily Matabane and Tshisikhawe Dzhivani.
 
Lombaard believes that learning Sign Language bridges the gap between the hearing and those who have impairments. “The benefit is that there will be no miscommunication. It happens that a deaf person walks into a bank or municipality offices and there is no communication. They need to write which is humiliating for that person.”
 
Towards a promising future
 
According to Goodwill Mokoena, Project Manager at Beyond Boundaries, the project will continue annually, and a larger intake of government departments and non-governmental organisations is expected in 2016.He also indicated that Shout Out Loud has achieved substantial success in its involvement with the Bartimea School for the Blind and Deaf.

Shout Out Loud selects one pupil every month, and flies them to Johannesburg to interpret on Bloemfontein Celtics’ magazine show. It is the only magazine show in South Africa that has a sign language interpreter. “The school has been achieving 100% in matric results because the pupils are selected on merit. This has enhanced their academic performance in such a marvelous way,” said Mokoena.

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