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19 March 2019 | Story Thabo Kessah | Photo Thabo Kessah
Thokozile Thulo
Thokozile Thulo says the UFS has changed its focus in supporting students with disabilities.

The Centre for Universal Access and Disability Support (CUADS) has recently opened a permanent office on the Qwaqwa Campus The centre aims to ensure that the University of the Free State increasingly becomes a universally accessible higher-education institution which embraces students with various disabilities.

Thokozile Thulo, CUADS Assistant Officer at Qwaqwa said: “Our focus has changed from ‘special’ accommodation for individuals to the creation of a learning environment that is welcoming and empowering to all students. Integrated learning and education methodologies and processes are being researched and developed to create more awareness among lecturing staff. This incorporates universal design, faculty instruction and curricula.” 

The CUADS office assists students to gain access to study courses, learning materials, various buildings and residences, computer facilities and specialised exams and tests. For visually-impaired students, study material and textbooks in Braille, audio, e-text or enlarged format are provided. 

The office also supports students with various psychosocial and chronic conditions such as epilepsy and panic disorder, as well as learning difficulties such as dyslexia and hyperactivity. “In addition, we support students with special arrangements such as extra time for tests and exams,” said Thokozile.



News Archive

UFS researchers help find opportunities to create knowledge
2016-09-15

Description: Mobile libraries  Tags: Mobile libraries

The initiative hopes that the mobile libraries
will continue to contribute towards literature
awareness and access to books at rural
schools in the Free State.
Photo: Supplied

Did you know that only 3 392 primary schools in South Africa have libraries? In the Free State the statistics are shocking. Only 277 primary schools have libraries, while 1 087 carry on without them. One of nine provinces in South Africa, the Free State is regarded as a rural province. The South African Primary Education Support Initiative (SAPESI), in partnership with other sponsors, has committed to expanding access to books by donating mobile libraries to service schools across South Africa. In the Free State, the project is embraced by the Free State Department of Education, which employs the mobile operators and library assistants to service these libraries, driving many kilometres of gravel road to visit remote farm schools and other under-resourced schools. SAPESI has set a goal to supply 75 mobile libraries to provide 2 000 schools with access to books by the year 2020.

Discovering the value of the mobile libraries
Although the mobile libraries in the Free State have been functioning since 2007, no formal research had been conducted on their work. Towards the end of 2014, the Free State Department of Education and the Flemish Association for Development Cooperation and Technical Assistance (VVOB) commissioned the UFS to carry out a participatory action research project. Dr Lynette Jacobs, Head of the School of Education Studies at the University of the Free State’s Faculty of Education and her team engaged with role-players at district and provincial level in a Participatory Action Research project.

The research project aimed to describe the work that mobile libraries do, and appraise its influence on learners and schools, towards improving their functionality. In addition, this project aimed to build research capacity within the district teacher development centres.

Highlights of the mobile library project
The way the Free State Department of Education embraced and supported the initiative by Mr Tad Hasunuma and SAPESI, was inspiring. Each of the five education districts has two fully equipped library buses that periodically visit schools. The stock on the buses is regularly replaced by books that SAPESI receives from the international community. Specific books are also loaded for teachers to use as resources. One of the outcomes of the research project was that guidelines were developed for teachers on how to use books in addition to curriculum material in the classroom. At district level, the teams reflected on the work that they were doing and implemented improvement plans to provide an even better service. Findings of the project were presented at the XIV Annual International Conference of the Bulgarian Comparative Education Society that focused on education provision earlier this year. It was lauded by representatives of the international education community as an example of good practice to provide education to marginalised children.

Reading helps enrich children’s lives
The research project concluded by stating that the aim of the mobile libraries was to provide learners and teachers at rural and farm schools with reading books, and they were doing as best they could. While the mobile libraries cannot make up for possible challenges related to teaching and learning or in infrastructure, the learners and the teachers are regularly provided with good resources to encourage reading and stimulate literacy development.

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