Understanding the experiences of educationally disadvantaged students at Stellenbosch University

Lourens, Elza (2013-12)

Thesis (MEd)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The importance of increased accessibility to higher education for non-traditional students has been recognised globally. In South Africa, a strong drive exists to provide access to students who were previously excluded from higher education because of the apartheid history. Stellenbosch University attempts to contribute to redress and transformation through, amongst other initiatives, the SciMathUS Bridging Programme (Science and Mathematics at the University of Stellenbosch). The SciMathUS Bridging Programme provides access to educationally disadvantaged students to higher education. Even though these students gained access to higher education, they were struggling to succeed. Many questions about the functioning of specifically educationally disadvantaged students in higher education are still unanswered. This study aims to find answers to some of these questions, namely what are the major challenges educationally disadvantaged students face at a predominantly white, Afrikaans university and how do they function within the university. The research is a narrative ethnography with the focus on the experiences of seven former SciMathUS students at Stellenbosch University. The data was collected by means of unstructured interviews, student journals as well as social media over a period of four months. Narratives about the seven students’ experiences on campus were compiled and analysed within the framework of Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model by focusing on the reciprocal and dynamic interactions of the students within their campus systems. The analysis of the narratives showed limited interactions in the academic, social and residential contexts and revealed that these students faced academic, financial, linguistic, social and administrative challenges, which led to very high stress levels. They struggled to become part of the academic practice and responded by functioning on the periphery of the university system. The implications of providing access to educationally disadvantaged students to higher education, and particularly Stellenbosch University, are threefold. On a theoretical level, gaps in current theory on student development and support were identified. On a substantive level, a disjuncture between university policies and initiatives, and the real-life experiences of the students existed and systemic changes in the academic, social and residential contexts are imperative. Finally, on a practical level, the narratives of these students provided insight into their experiences and highlighted the need for the reconsideration of current practices around teaching and learning, language, admission, re-admission, financial support, tutoring and mentoring, and social life, particularly in residences.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die belang van groter toeganklikheid tot hoër onderwys vir nie-tradisionele studente word wêreldwyd erken. As gevolg van die apartheidsgeskiedenis, is daar in Suid-Afrika ‘n grootse poging om aan studente wat voorheen uitgesluit was, toegang tot hoër onderwys te verleen. Die Universiteit Stellenbosch poog om ‘n bydra te lewer tot die regstelling en transformasie, onder andere, deur die SciMathUS Brugprogram (Science and Mathematics at the University of Stellenbosch) wat aan onderwysbenadeelde studente toegang tot hoër onderwys verleen. Alhoewel hierdie studente toegang tot hoër onderwys verkry het, sukkel hul om sukses te behaal. Baie vrae oor die funksionering van spesifiek onderwysbenadeelde studente in hoër onderwys is steeds onbeantwoord. Hierdie studie poog om antwoorde te vind op van hierdie vrae naamlik, wat is die grootste uitdagings wat onderwysbenadeelde studente aan ’n hoofsaaklik wit, Afrikaanssprekend universiteit in die gesig staar en hoe funksioneer hul binne die universiteit. Die navorsing is ’n narratiewe etnografie met die fokus op die ervarings van sewe voormalige SciMathUS studente aan die Universiteit Stellenbosch. Die data is oor ’n tydperk van vier maande deur middel van onderhoude, studentejoernale en sosiale media versamel. Narratiewe oor die sewe studente se ervarings op kampus is saamgestel en binne die raamwerk van Bronfenbrenner se ekologiese model ontleed deur op die wedersydse en dinamiese interaksies van die studente in hul kampus- sisteme te fokus. Die ontleding van die narratiewe het beperkte interaksies binne die akademiese, sosiale en residensiële kontekste aangedui en het getoon dat die studente akademiese, finansiële, taal, sosiale en administratiewe uitdagings in die gesig gestaar het, wat tot hoë stresvlakke gelei het. Hul het gesukkel om deel te word van die akademiese praktyk en het daarop reageer deur op die rand van die universiteitsisteem te funksioneer. Die implikasies van toegang tot hoër onderwys, en meer spesifiek die Universiteit Stellenbosch, aan onderwysbenadeelde studente, is drieërlei. Op ’n teoretiese vlak is gapings in huidige teorie oor studente-ontwikkeling en -ondersteuning geïdentifiseer. Op ’n substantiewe vlak het daar ’n gaping bestaan tussen universiteitsbeleide en -inisiatiewe en die werklike ervarings van die studente en is sistemiese veranderinge in die akademiese, sosiale en residensiële kontekste nodig. Laastens, op ’n praktiese vlak het die narratiewe van die studente lig gewerp op hul ervarings en die behoefte aan die heroorweging van huidige praktyke rondom onderrig en leer, taal, toelating, her-toelating, finansiële ondersteuning, tutor- and mentorskap en sosiale lewe, spesifiek in koshuise, beklemtoon.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/85812
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