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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

Qwaqwa Campus’s Teaching and Learning Champs scoop up award
2014-10-24



Dr Elize Smuts (right) proudly displaying the UFS Vice-Chancellor’s Team Award. Equally ecstatic, is Qwaqwa Campus’s CTL Manager, Fred Mudavanhu.
Photo: Thabo Kessah
Action research to improve classroom practice and student success rates, recently received a boost when the Qwaqwa Campus’s Teaching and Learning (TL) Champions were honoured with the prestigious UFS Vice-Chancellor’s Team Award. The award was in recognition of the team’s efforts to enhance professional development and was accompanied by a R50 000 prize that will be utilised to further encourage and develop a scholarly culture on the Qwaqwa Campus.

“An active learning community has developed over the past four years, which led to the creation of a scholarly forum for sharing problems, experiences and new knowledge”, revealed Dr Elize Smuts, who has been the pillar of strength in the development of TL Champs.

“This”, Dr Smuts said, “has continuously motivated the group to persevere in challenging and often under-resourced circumstances.”

 “Over a four-year period, 44 projects were undertaken, many with great success. Thirteen scholars participated in a pilot of CLASSE (Classroom Assessment of Student Engagement) in 2013. This survey, contextualised by staff from the Centre for Teaching and Learning, was a first in South Africa,” said Dr Smuts.

“The team undertook extensive literature reviews and attended numerous workshops on principles and practices of good teaching, research and writing. The two summarising booklets they prepared from two publications (How Learning Works: 7 Research-based Principles for Smart Teaching and Student Engagement Techniques) in 2013, will serve as guides and inspiration for the larger academic community of the UFS for many years.”

Since the formation of this team, TL scholars have presented 25 papers at 12 national and two international conferences.

“Taking into consideration that it is not easy to get an abstract accepted for presentation, these are impressive achievements,” Dr Smuts said.

“Some of the immediate results of scholars engaged in this project, include improved student success rates averaging 20% compared to only 8% improvement by academics who are not part of the project.”
 
“In 2013, one TL scholar reported student success rates that increased by 29%; another reported 80% on average; and another reported an increase from 65% to 95% in a class bigger than previous years.”

In congratulating the team, Centre for Teaching and Learning’s (CTL) Prof Annette Wilkinson said that she was very proud of the team.
 
“The team’s dedication and growth in scholarly practice – amidst challenging circumstances – are in my mind, the outstanding features of the project. I am very proud of the entire team”, said Prof Wilkinson.

The two presentations at international conferences were delivered by Ms Lea Koenig at the 32nd Annual Conference on the First-Year-Experience in Orlando, Florida and by Dr Elize Smuts in North Carolina. Both of these were presented in 2013.


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