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25 April 2019 | Story Mamosa Makaya

Since 2016, the University of the Free State Center for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) has received a grant from First National Bank worth R2 498 000, which supports tertiary bursaries for students with disabilities. Bursary holders are funded through CUADS, as the administrator of the bursaries.
  
These are students enrolled for various academic programmes who require academic assistance and/or assistive devices such as electronic handheld magnifiers, laptops, and hearing aids. The FNB grant also covers tuition, accommodation, study material and books, and meals.  The success of the grant is already evident, with one of the recipients having graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in December 2018. A second student was capped at the April 2019 graduations with a BSc Honours in Quantity Surveying.
 
Supporting the principles of the ITP

The UFS received the grant from FNB in instalments, starting in the 2016 academic year to date, supporting the needs of 40 disabled students. This grant and the work of CUADS speaks to and supports the principles of the Integrated Transformation Plan (ITP), namely inclusivity, transformation, and diversity. The vision of the Universal Access work stream is to enable the UFS to create an environment where students with disabilities can experience all aspects of student life equal to their non-disabled peers. The ITP provides for the recognition of the rights of people with disabilities as an important lesson in social justice and an opportunity to reinforce university values.

The successful administration of the grant to benefit past and present students is a ‘feather in the cap’ of CUADS, and is a shining example of the impact of public private investment and the endless possibilities that open up when there is a commitment to developing future leaders in academic spaces, allowing them to thrive by creating a learning environment that is welcoming and empowering. 



News Archive

Emotional health of vulnerable children needs urgent intervention
2014-02-04



In South Africa, thousands of children under the age of 18 are orphaned as a result of HIV/Aids. Experts are worried that these orphans and vulnerable children will experience serious socio-emotional problems and behaviour disorders, should urgent intervention programmes not be implemented urgently.

A study was undertaken by the Centre for Development Support at the UFS, in conjunction with Stellenbosch University and the Houston University in America. The research found that in the Free State province alone, about 15% of orphans and vulnerable children showed signs of psychiatric disorders. Almost half of the children in the study showed signs of abnormal or maladjusted behavioural functioning.

The research team believes that the South African government and the numerous non-governmental organisations put too much emphasis on the physical needs of orphaned and vulnerable children and that their socio-emotional or mental wellbeing receives very little attention.

The nominal financial grant is a welcome relief for some of the needs of this risk group. Researchers are worried, though, that the lack of reliable and culturally-sensitive diagnostic methods for the early detection of psychiatric disorders may pose a challenge when the children reach puberty.

The current study is focusing on the detection of emotional behavioural problems even before adolescence. Questionnaires were distributed across the Free State at clinics, schools and non-governmental organisations dealing with these children. The questionnaires enabled researchers to establish the children's socio-emotional needs.

"Overcrowding in houses where orphans and vulnerable children often live is directly linked to poor socio-emotional health in children," says Prof Lochner Marais from the Centre for Development Support. "The state institutions offering programmes for orphans and vulnerable children overemphasise the physical and/or financial needs of these children. The programme provides, for example, food for the children, grants for the [foster] parents, assistance with school clothes and ensures clinic visits for the children. Of these, only the supply of food has a direct impact on the improved mental health of children."

The study provides, for the first time, a profile of the state of mind of this group, as well as the emotional impact of HIV/Aids – an "urgent matter" according to Dr Carla Sharp from the University of Houston's Department of Psychology. According to Dr Sharp, much more could be done to assist foster parents in addressing the emotional needs of these children. The early detection of behavioural disorders should be the key in intervention programmes.

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