'n Voorlopige impakstudie van 'n vennootskapsprojek tussen universiteit, skole en die privaatsektor : hoop vir benadeelde studente danksy mentorskappe

Le Cordeur, Michael (2012-09)

CITATION: Le Cordeur, M. 2012. 'n Voorlopige impakstudie van 'n vennootskapsprojek tussen universiteit, skole en die privaatsektor : hoop vir benadeelde studente danksy mentorskappe. Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe, 52(3):397-414.

The original publication is available at http://www.scielo.org.za

Article

Die Universiteit Stellenbosch verkeer onder druk om sy diversiteitsprofiel te verbeter sodat dit in lyn is met die transformasiedoelwitte van die regering soos uiteengesit in die Witskrif op Hoër Onderwys van 1997. Terselfdertyd is die Universiteit onder druk om 'n rol te speel in armoede-verligting van die benadeelde gemeenskappe rondom Stellenbosch. Die gehalte van die onderwys in die voorheen benadeelde skole is egter so swak dat baie min leerders uit hierdie gemeenskappe kwalifiseer om hul studies op universiteit voort te sit. In reaksie op hierdie uitdagings het die Universiteit 'n opvoedkundige filosofie aanvaar wat bekend staan as 'n "pedagogie van hoop" (Freire 1970). Dit het gelei tot die ontstaan van inisiatiewe soos die Rachel's Angels-skole-vennootskapsprojek, gegrond op die beginsels van gemeenskapsinteraksie. Die projek het ten doel om die kapasiteit van belowende leerders uit benadeelde gemeenskappe te verbeter met behulp van 'n mentorskapprogram sodat hul kanse op toegang tot universiteit sal verbeter. Hierdie artikel gee 'n oorsig van hierdie projek, waarna 'n impakstudie volg om te bepaal of die projek die verwagte uitkomste bereik het. Die bevindinge van die impakstudie dui daarop dat, uit die benadeelde skole wat aan die projek deelneem, meer leerders universiteitstoelating kry, groeipyne ten spyt. So word betekenis gegee aan die Universiteit se strewe na 'n "pedagogie van hoop".

Successful access to higher education for black students in particular remains a challenge to all tertiary institutions in South Africa. This is the opinion of Prof. Russel Botman, Rector of Stellenbosch University (SU). It is therefore of concern that the SU strategic framework document (SU 2010a) states that the increase in our country’s student population projected by the National Commission for Higher Education in 1997 (DBO 1997) has not been attained. This is in contrast with the University’s vision for the future, which commits itself to an academic institution of excellence and a respected knowledge partner that contributes towards the development of South Africa and welcomes a diversity of people and ideas. But according to a report by the Centre for Higher Education Transformation (CHET)1 little demographic transformation had occurred in respect of who participates in higher education. This is an indication that black students’ chances of gaining access to university have in fact decreased. Despite this authorities continue to insist that the percentage of black students in public higher-education institutions be increased. The Ministry’s vision is of a transformed, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist system of higher education that will promote equity of access and fair chances of success to all who are seeking to realise their potential through higher education (DBO 1997). The Vice-Rector of SU (Fourie 2009b:16) expands on this: “Besides the moral-ethical considerations, pressure is also being placed on universities by higher education policy to diversify their student and staff compositions and to remove measures that could exclude certain groupings”. Stellenbosch University is thus under pressure to align its diversity profile with the transformation goals set by the government, as proclaimed in the White Paper on Higher Education of 1997. At the same time the University also experiences pressure from the broader community to answer to the call of alleviating poverty in disadvantaged communities (SU 2010a). However, the standard of teaching in previously disadvantaged schools in the surrounding areas is such that very few students qualify to further their studies at university level. The question therefore is what the University can do to draw students that will rise to these challenges. In his response the University announced a strategy referred to by the current vice-chancellor (Botman 2007) as a “pedagogy of hope”. This seems to have been inspired by the neo-Marxist Brazilian educationalist Paulo Friere’s publication Pedagogy of the oppressed (1970). According to this strategy the University will search for and exploit opportunities that will lead to “the farm owner’s daughter and the farm worker’s son sitting in the same class” (Botman 2007). This gave rise to initiatives such as the Rachel’s Angels Schools Partnership Project, which is based on the principles of community interaction.2 The project aims to build the capacity of promising students from disadvantaged communities with the aid of a mentorship programme. This will enable them to bridge the gap between school and university successfully. This article presents an overview of the project as well as a report on its impact. The educational theories which underpin the Rachel’s Angels project can be considered to be constructivist in nature, founded upon a philosophy that is student centred and based on a view in which knowledge is not absolute, but is actively constructed by the student. The study aims to establish whether the project has achieved the desired outcomes. If employed successfully, SU will give effect to its transformation agenda, which includes increased participation by a diverse corps of students, willingness to react to social and economic needs and growing cooperation between higher education institutions and all sectors of society. The results of the impact study indicate that, despite growing pains, the project has already made a meaningful contribution in building the capacity of disadvantaged students. The implications for the University are to continuously engage in partnerships with previously disadvantaged schools in order to unlock the potential of disadvantaged students. Not only will it reflect positively on the University’s diversity profile, but at the same time give meaning to the University’s quest for a “pedagogy of hope”.

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