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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

An education system based on hope is what South Africa needs – Dr Beryl Botman
2016-05-26

Description: Hope revised Tags: Hope revised

Dr Beryl Botman, a postdoctoral research
fellow at the IRSJ, with Dr Willy Nel research associate
at the IRSJ and lecturer at the UFS
Faculty of Education.

HOPE is tangible and concrete construct that should be rooted in the learning and training of teachers,” said Dr Beryl Botman, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice (IRSJ).

She presented her research paper Educators, praxis, and hope: A philosophical analysis of post-apartheid teacher education policy, based on the theoretical ideologies of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. She explores ways in which oppression has been justified, and how it has been overcome through a mutual process between the oppressor and the oppressed, drawing on Paolo Freire’s theories and practices. The presentation was held at the University of the Free State’s (UFS) Faculty of Education, on the Bloemfontein campus on 13 May 2016.

From oppression to hope

Hope should be an educational construct for teacher education in South Africa. Dr Botman asserts that epistemology and ontology should be inseparable, as they are pivotal to an education system that is transformational.

The recent country-wide student protests and demonstrations are an indicant that education institutions need to seek understanding of mechanisms that fuel social conflict. Dr Botman claims that vast social inequalities make the process of democratisation difficult thus hindering transformation. She states that a critical consciousness is important for all South Africans, but more so for educators; it can be used as a tool to understanding the mechanisms of social conflict.

“Self-reflection and self-critique is vital for educators, we need to understand that we do not have all the answers because we ever-evolving beings, working on understanding ourselves and the people around us,” said Dr Botman.

The notion of hope
“I am a farmer. I have no hope for a future that is different from today. This quotation comes from Paulo Freire’s work," said Dr Botman. She said that the South African context and environment is similar. She said that people cannot live for today; one should live for tomorrow if hope is to manifest itself.

South African education environment needs to adopt a progressive consciousness that is future orientated, “You need to be hopeful, if you are radical. You need to be able to envision a new society and a new world,” said Dr Botman.

“You cannot only denounce the present, you need to also announce your hopes for a new society. South Africa needs education systems built on understanding. Although change is difficult, it is necessary for transformation,” Dr Botman added.

What makes hope educational?
“Hope is a vision for a tomorrow that is different, and vital for a transformative education system. To get out of a state of despair, people need to educate their hope. Lately, the issue of white privilege has been brought to the fore. You need to educate your hope, so that you understand the reality of others but, more importantly, of yourself,” said Dr Botman.

Dr Botma added that teacher education needs to adopt a Freirean pedagogy with a strong philosophy based on hope. The agency of teachers can either be hopeful or without hope. It is vital that education promotes hope.

“Teachers need to rely on their existential experience, the experiences of others, and the experiences of the children or students they teach. An understanding of all these experience reinforces the idea that people are life-long learners, always learning and adapting to society’s needs,” said Dr Botman.

Teachers as agents of hope

Dr Botman stated that current South African education policy is directed towards transformation but it does not stipulate means to achieve this objective. Further, she argues that educators need to put greater emphasis on self-knowledge, self-reflection, and self-education. Connecting with teachers, parents, students and the community engages with their self-knowledge and reflection.

Reorientation of teacher education
Dr Botman concluded by mentioning that rethinking ontological and epistemological aspects of education is important, and should be a pivotal point of teacher education. A renewed vision of hope-orientated philosophy and pedagogy needs to be adopted by the education institutions. A praxis, which is an informed action, when a balance between theory and practice is achieved. There is a need for an inclusive exploration of education philosophies and education systems not only European and Western but also African and Eastern as well.

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