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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

Farmers need to plan grazing better, says UFS expert
2017-02-21

Description: Prof HO de Waal Tags: Prof HO de Waal

Prof HO de Waal, affiliated researcher
at the University of the Free State,
says farmers should save grazing
during the summer months to have
fodder available in the winter and
early spring.
Photo: Theuns Botha,
Landbouweekblad

“Farmers should save veld during the summer months to have grazing available for animals especially in the winter and early spring. Farmers should also adjust livestock numbers timely and wisely according to the available material in the field,” says Prof HO de Waal, professional animal scientist and affiliated researcher in the Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences at the University of the Free State.

He offered this advice as a result of the sporadic and scattered (scant) rainfall of the past couple of summers. “In retrospect we know that this kind of precipitation started in about 2014 and has continued in subsequent summers. In February 2015, it was clear that a major fodder scarcity was developing.”

Existing research methods serve as source of current knowledge
Dr Herman Fouché (Agricultural Research Council) has conducted research on the impact of climate, especially rainfall, on the growth of grass. Sophisticated computer technology developed as far back as the 1980s to – through modelling – predicts the impact of climate on field production during the growing season.

The impact of climate, and more specifically rainfall, on field production has been known to animal and grazing scientists for a long time. Prof De Waal used the modelling results to determine the impact of rainfall on grass as a feeding source for animals.

“Information that emerged from this old research programme could therefore be applied directly to animal production,” says Prof De Waal.

Adjust livestock numbers to availability of grazing
In the summer rainfall areas of South Africa, grass usually grows from the end of August and early September. The growth process is dependent on the transfer of soil moisture, as well as on rainfall during the winter and early spring.

“Livestock numbers should be balanced throughout the year (according to the nutritional needs and production of the animals) with the availability of grazing material – be consistent, not only during certain seasons or when drought is imminent,” is Prof De Waal’s advice to farmers. “Farmers are also encouraged to carefully reduce the number of livestock on grazing and to rather focus their attention and limited resources on the remaining breeding herds (cows and ewes).”

“It is tragic, but unfortunately many farmers will not survive the effects of recent years. Similar climatic conditions will occur, with the same tragic consequences for man and beast. Better planning has to start now.” The assistance of private institutions, individuals, as well as the government, during the severe droughts is gratefully acknowledged.

Spineless cactus pear as solution for scarcity of animal feed
Prof De Waal says spineless cactus pears could be used as a feeding source during droughts. “The effects of a severe drought, or major animal-feed scarcity, are still prevalent in large parts of the subcontinent.” This may act as a catalyst to utilise spineless cactus pears as a feeding source and to be incorporated in the feed-flow programme for livestock on natural grazing.

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