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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

Race, technology, and maritime labour in the 19th century
2016-06-23


Prof John T. Grider

 

“When employers
impose
worker identity,
it creates problems.”

What does identity mean to people today, and how is it formed? Religion, politics, race, ethnicity, and gender make up individual and community identity. However, Prof John Grider (University of Wisconsin – La Crosse) is of the opinion that employment moulds our identity, since we spend so much time on the job.

Prof Grider joined the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice (IRSJ) on the Bloemfontein and Qwaqwa Campuses to discuss his research on the maritime industry, published in his book, Foreign Voyage - Pacific Maritime Labour Identity: 1840 to 1890. “When employers impose worker identity, it creates problems,” he said. Particularly, this “creates instability in communities, and a vulnerability and insecurity amongst the employees”.

To illustrate his point, Prof Grider expanded on the history of 19th-century Atlantic sailors, a highly-skilled workforce, who failed to adapt to changes in their labour environment. Initially, the sea-faring community was very diverse racially. However, as the Pacific, and particularly Asian, marine community gained precedence, this tide turned to such an extent that, in 1886, the Atlantic sailors formed their own Coastal Seamen’s Union in San Francisco, causing a split between Asian and non-Asian sailors. Atlantic sailors had failed to integrate with the new technology of the day (steam power), nor had they accepted the demographic changes that flooded their community rapidly with cheap labour from Chinese shores. 

Prof Grider highlighted the need to maintain an adaptable mentality in the ever- and rapidly-changing labour world, since division amongst workers could lead only to further exploitation of the workforce.

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