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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. 



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Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice: cultivating humanity
2014-12-15

Directors of university centres focusing on Social Justice, Diversity and Transformation met at the UFS to establish the Directors' Forum. The forum discussed the state of higher education transformation in South Africa  The forum consists of (from the left) Mr Allan Zinn from the The Centre for the Advancement of Non-racialism and Democracy at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Profs Melissa Steyn from Wits University's Centre for Diversity Studies,  Andre Keet Director of the The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice at the University of the Free State; Rozena Maart  from The Centre for Critical Research on Race and Identity  at the University of KwaZulu Natal and Mr JC van der Merwe, researcher at the UFS Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice
Photo: O'Ryan Heideman

The Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice at the University of the Free State (UFS) provides a critical space that brings different voices, ideas and practices together to advance the Human and Academic Projects of the university. Students, staff and community members meet here to find ways to engage with diverse views, realities and aspirations.

“We cultivate humanity so that reconciliation and social justice can be expressed in our everyday life and we work against disrespect and inequalities on our campuses and in our society,” says Prof André Keet, Director of the Institute for Reconciliation and Social Justice.

“Through our various critical conversations, public lectures, seminars and colloquia, fresh understandings and ideas come to the fore and new inclusive ways of doing life in a local and global multicultural society are invented,” Prof Keet says. A host of international experts formed part of the institute’s events during 2014.

Dr Charles Alexander (University of California), Prof Halleh Ghorashi (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), Prof Alex Hinton (Rutgers University), Dr Shirley Anne Tate (University of Leeds) and Prof Susan Spearey (Brock University) were but a few of the international experts contributing to the work of the institute during the last year.

“We play key roles in transformation debates within Higher Education South Africa (HESA) and ministerial processes,” Prof Keet says. “We promote, protect and monitor human rights across our campuses and are frequently requested to support the work of the South African Human Rights Commission and to provide advice to other state agencies.”

The institute prides itself on their leading-edge research on social cohesion, reconciliation, human rights and higher education transformation. In addition, staff of the institute teaches, on invitation, at various faculties, as well as at other national and international universities.

To further bolster their impact, the institute is launching three master’s and doctoral postgraduate programmes in January 2015.

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