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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

Expert in Africa Studies debunks African middle class myth
2016-05-10

Description: Prof Henning Melber Tags: Prof Henning Melber

From left: Prof Heidi Hudson, Director of the Centre for Africa Studies (CAS), Joe Besigye from the Institute of Reconciliation and Social Justice, and Prof Henning Melber, Extraordinary Professor at the CAS and guest lecturer for the day.
Photo: Valentino Ndaba

Until recently, think tanks from North America, the African Development Bank, United Nations Development Plan, and global economists have defined the African middle class based purely on monetary arithmetic. One of the claims made in the past is that anyone with a consumption power of $2 per day constitutes the middle class. Following this, if poverty is defined as monetary income below $1.5 a day, it means that it takes just half a dollar to reach the threshold considered as African middle class.

Prof Henning Melber highlighted the disparities in the notion of a growing African middle class in a guest lecture titled A critical anatomy of the African middle class(es), hosted by our Centre for Africa Studies (CAS) at the University of the Free State on 4 May 2016. He is an Extraordinary Professor at the Centre, as well as Senior Adviser and Director Emeritus of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Sweden.

Prof Melber argued that it is misleading to consider only income when identifying the middle class. In his opinion, such views were advanced by promoters of the global neo-liberal project. “My suspicion is that those who promote the middle class  discourse in that way, based on such a low threshold, were desperate to look for the success story that testifies to Africa rising.”

Another pitfall of such a middle-class analysis is its ahistorical contextualisation. This economically-reduced notion of the class is a sheer distortion. Prof Melber advised analysts to take cognisance of factors, such as consumption patterns, lifestyle, and political affiliation, amongst others.

In his second lecture for the day, Prof Melber dealt withthe topic of: Namibia since independence: the limits to Liberation, painting the historical backdrop against which the country’s current government is consolidating its political hegemony. He highlighted examples of the limited transformation that has been achieved since Namibia’s independence in 1990.

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