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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

Horse-riding therapy improves self-confidence in children
2016-05-10


This group of Honours students in Psychology at the University of the Free State was honoured with the best postgraduate Service Learning award at the prize-giving function of the Faculty of the Humanities. From the left are Adriana de Vries, Hershel Meyerowitz, Simoné le Roux, Wijbren Nell, Melissa Taljaard, and Gerán Lordan. Photo: Marizanne Cloete.

Horse-riding therapy helps to improve self-confidence in children, and changes their perception of themselves. It puts them in a totally new environment where they can be free of any judgement.

According to Wijbren Nell, who achieved his Honours degree in Psychology at the University of the Free State (UFS), this is the ideal therapy when working with children with disabilities. He said it was amazing to see how they developed.

He was part of a group of Honours students in Psychology who received the best postgraduate Service Learning award in the Faculty of the Humanities for their community project. In 2015, this project by Wijbren, Hershel Meyerowitz, Gerán Lordan, Melissa Taljaard, Simoné le Roux, and Adriana de Vries, was part of their module Community and Social Psychology. They were honoured at the Faculty’s prize-giving function on 15 April 2016.

Purpose of project

“Our purpose with the project was to demonstrate to the children that they could still accomplish something, despite their disabilities,” Wijbren said. The students work on a weekly basis with learners from the foundation phase of the Lettie Fouché School in Bloemfontein. Marie Olivier’s Equistria Therapeutic Development Trust serves as the site for the community project. She has a long standing partnership with the UFS.

Horse-riding and therapy

According to Wijbren, the idea was to stimulate the psychomotor functioning of the children, as well as to promote their psychological well-being. He said research has shown that there is incredible therapeutic value in horse-riding. In this specific case, it has improved the children’s self-confidence, as they may have a poor self-image as a result of their disabilities.

“At the beginning of the year, there was a girl who didn’t even want to come close to a horse, let alone getting onto the horse. We kept on trying, and, once she was on the horse, we couldn’t get her down. This was the amazing thing about the project,” said Wijbren.

Award a surprise

Wijbren said the award was a honour and surprise to his group. He was full of praise for Dr Pravani Naidoo, a lecturer in Psychology at the UFS, who coordinates the therapeutic horse riding project. “She has a tremendous passion for this project, and challenged us to think on our feet. She is a real inspiration.”

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