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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 lecturer overcomes barriers to become world-class researcher
2016-09-05

Description: Dr Magteld Smith researcher and deaf awareness activist Tags: Dr Magteld Smith researcher and deaf awareness activist

Dr Magteld Smith researcher and deaf awareness
activist, from the Department of Otorhinolaryngology
at the UFS.
Photo: Nonsindiso Qwabe

Renowned author and disability activist Helen Keller once said the problems that come with being deaf are deeper and more far-reaching than any other physical disability, as it means the loss of the human body’s most vital organ, sound.

Dr Magteld Smith, researcher at the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat) at the University of the Free State, said hearing loss of any degree can have psychological and sociological implications which may impair the day-to-day functioning of an individual, as well as preventing the person from reaching full potential. That is why Smith is making it her mission to bring about change in the stigmatisation surrounding deafness.

Beating the odds
Smith was born with bilateral (both ears) severe hearing loss, which escalated to profound deafness. But she has never allowed it to hinder her quality of life. She matriculated from a school for the deaf in 1985. In 2008 she received a cochlear implant   a device that replaces the functioning of the damaged inner ear by providing a sense of sound to the deaf person   which she believes transformed her life. Today, she is the first deaf South African to possess two masters degrees and a PhD.

She is able to communicate using spoken language in combination with her cochlear implant, lip-reading and facial expressions. She is also the first and only deaf person in the world to have beaten the odds to become an expert researcher in various fields of deafness and hearing loss, working in an Otorhinolaryngology department.

Advocating for a greater quality of life
An advocate for persons with deafness, Smith conducted research together with other experts around the world which illustrated that cochlear implantation and deaf education were cost-effective in Sub-Saharan Africa. The cost-effectiveness of paediatric cochlear implantation has been well-established in developed countries; but is unknown in low resource settings.

However, with severe-to-profound hearing loss five times higher in low and middle-income countries, the research emphasises the need for the development of cost-effective management strategies in these settings.

This research is one of a kind in that it states the quality of life and academic achievements people born with deafness have when they use spoken language and sign language as a mode of communication is far greater than those who only use sign language without any lip-reading.

Deafness is not the end

What drives Smith is the knowledge that deaf culture is broad and wide. People with disabilities have their own talents and skills. All they need is the support to steer them in the right direction. She believes that with the technological advancements that have been made in the world, deaf people also have what it takes to be self-sufficient world-changers and make a lasting contribution to humanity.

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