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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 Faculty of Theology hosts expert on African Traditional Religion (ATR)
2016-05-20

Description: African Traditional Religion  Tags: African Traditional Religion

Dr Nokuzola Mndende, Prof Fanie Snyman (Dean of the Faculty of Theology), and Dr Luvuyo Ntombana (Department Head: Religion Studies)

Dr Nokuzola Mndende, an acclaimed theologian, researcher, and practitioner of African Traditional Religion (ATR), is often called upon in the media to offer her expert opinion or participate in interfaith panel discussions. Thanks to an initiative from the postgraduate diploma class in the Faculty of Theology and the efforts of Dr Luvuyo Ntombana (Department Head: Religion Studies; Faculty of Theology), Dr Mndende accepted an invitation to present her paper, “From the periphery to the centre: African Traditional Religion in a democratic state”, on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS). In his opening remarks, Dr Ntombana stated that he was heartened by his students’ desire to be “co-workers in knowledge production” by engaging with Dr Mndende.

Dr Mndende’s contention is that African Traditional Religion (ATR) was suppressed throughout colonial times, and, despite a 22-year-old democracy, continues to be moved to “beyond the periphery” by what she terms “spiritual subsets”; those who strive to amalgamate their African Traditional Religion rituals with the practices of Christianity. Quoting statistics from a 1995 survey by the SABC, she stated that ATR is a minority in its birthplace (with only 5% representation), and posed the question: “If ATR is a minority in its place of birth, where is it a majority?” Her presentation put forward the need to study and interpret ATR introspectively, but acknowledged that more “homework” would be needed in this regard.

Dr Mndende thanked the university, Dr Ntombana, and the Dean of the Faculty of Theology, Prof Fanie Snyman, for inviting her, and expressed a desire for the relationship with the UFS to continue.

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