Ensuring access to education is our imperative
How do we go about breaking the prevailing cycle of economic disparities and a lack of social cohesion while promoting active citizenship, innovation and development as well as human capital development? By ensuring access to quality education for as many of our citizens as possible – which is part of the mission of the North-West University (NWU).
The NWU is also committed to helping achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of which SDG 4, namely Quality Education, is seen as indispensable. This goal entails guaranteeing inclusive and equitable quality education, and the promotion of lifelong opportunities for all.
According to Prof Linda du Plessis, deputy vice-chancellor of the NWU responsible for planning and Vanderbijlpark Campus operations, the university is geared towards reaching this goal through a host of initiatives. One of them is Ikateleng, which means “empower yourself”. “Ikateleng is a community programme that has changed the life of thousands of learners. This programme has been in existence for approximately 33 years and provides supplementary teaching in mathematics, economics, business studies, accounting, life sciences, physical sciences and English to high school learners from Grade 10 to Grade 12,” says Prof Du Plessis.
In addition, prospective students who do not meet the admission requirements for specific formal degrees may enrol for one-year University Preparatory (UnivPrep) programmes or one of the various higher certificates in humanities, theology and economics and management sciences at the NWU. Students whose National Senior Certificate results in mathematics do not meet the requirements for admission to BCom or BSc studies and who are enrolled for formal BA degree studies at the NWU are permitted to enrol for the Bridging the Mathematical Gap modules to achieve the required standard for BCom or BSc studies.
She further explains that: “We have several extended programmes in commerce, science, and information technology to open access, while also ensuring that these students are supported and equipped to succeed in their studies. Through our Centre for Teaching and Learning, support is provided to students in the form of peer mentoring, reading development and supplemental instruction. In 2022, an online tool, ‘The First Year Navigator’, was launched to provide first-year students with just-in-time, essential academic information such as academic pointers at the start of and at key moments during the entire academic year.”
For the NWU, the future employability of graduates is also a key component that should not be viewed as separate when speaking of access to education.
“The NWU is dedicated not only to providing quality education to its students, but also to providing social justice and support communities. The high unemployment rate in the country makes it even more important to ensure that our students can enter the world of work. To this effect we initiated an institution-wide review of our programme offerings to ensure that all programmes are relevant and viable and meet the demands of the 21st-century world of work. Liaison with professional bodies is very important to us, allowing our students to also obtain professional affiliations when graduating from the NWU. The university plays a critical role in providing opportunities for students and prospective employers to engage. Career fairs and training in CV writing, work readiness and entrepreneurship are provided. We regularly engage with industry partners, predominantly enterprises that employ our graduates. The aim is to understand the skills needs of our industry partners and obtain feedback on how our graduates are performing in the market. Our faculties use this feedback to update our academic programmes.”
The university’s Alumni Relations Office initiated a mentorship programme to help prepare students and young alumni for work. The programme, which seeks to tackle high unemployment, has been well received by mentors and mentees alike.
“We hosted various workshops to assist unemployed graduates and postgraduate students with CV-writing and interview skills and connect them with potential employers. Last year we delivered 13 735 graduates,” she concludes.
These are but a few steps the NWU is taking to help the country on a path to prosperity. DM
Author: Bertie Jacobs