Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Greater Unity Needed to Provide Pupils with Varsity Info

Sthembiso Sithole

Higher Education Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, considers centralising applications.

On Tuesday 10 January 2011 we heard and read about the death of a mother of one of the people who were queuing-up at the University of Johannesburg (UJ). The woman died in a stampede as many late applicants were standing there with the hope that they would receive university entry despite applications at most universities having closed in 2011. Some students have raised concerns over this with one even posting a statement on Facebook that asks the university to enrol that 48-year-old woman’s child with no charge.

Late university applications seem to be a continuing trend in South Africa despite constant requests that students should do things early to avoid such scenarios. Some students view technical institutions like FET colleges as last options despite them providing skills that are crucial to the country.   

Last week the Sowetan newspaper reported that Higher Education Minister, Dr Blade Nzimande, said universities can only accept about 180 000 new entrants this year. Nzimande further encouraged students to explore opportunities in learnerships, artisan training, internships and Public Further Education and Traning (FET) colleges. 

"While it is good and well for those who choose and are in fact accepted in university, our youth must start realising that our post-school education and training system offers far most options," Nzimande was quoted.

Rural high schools seldom get visits from universities.
Students and many South African parents seem not to enquire about these options. As a Tshwane University of Technology student, I have realised that many show up at the beginning of the year with no clue what they want to study and apply for any diploma or degree that still has spaces available and is willing to accept students. Some even cry when they are told there are no spaces available and would have no answer explanation on why they wouldn’t have applied before application closures.

Thabile Ndlovu, who hopes to study law at the University of Witwatersrand (UJ) in Johannesburg, believes that students are not sure of what they want to study as there isn’t enough adequate information given out in high schools. "I am one of those prospective students who are not sure what to study for and that resulted to me applying late."
She adds that she was not accepted by Wits for the course she wanted to enroll in because she was told that it was already full.

Students also seem to do little research on how various courses are ranked and their quality at various universities. Wits and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) are popular choices for any degree because of their location. Students also believe if they are in Johannesburg then they’d have easier access to a good nightlife. They never look into whether these universities are the best options for the degrees they would like to study for.

The all important issue of race and class is still a major issue in South Africa. In the degree I am studying for, Journalism, the United Nations has named only four universities in the country as potential centres for academic excellence. They are Rhodes Univesity in the Eastern Cape, Stellenbosch University in the Western Cape, Walter Sisulu University in the Eastern Cape and the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) is the only one in Gauteng on the list. Despite the high ranking of TUT’s journalism diploma and degree most students would still prefer the University of Pretoria or other universities as TUT has moved the journalism department to the township of Soshanguve. TUT’s location – according to me – is brilliant as students get to cover stories they would cover in industry whilst they are still at university. The result of this is that TUT ends up with either one or no white students every year in this department – some people clearly resist change and finding out about how other South Africans live.

Late last year I visited matric pupils from different schools in KwaZulu-Natal’s rural villages of Nqutu and discovered that pupils there aren’t given any information on university options. Universities don’t even visit such areas to hold career exhibitions there. This would be important as many South Africans live in rural communities and attracting students from there would strengthen the professional sector in South Africa as they would understand the unique needs of the areas they come from.

Some universities might think the information is available online, but the majority of South Africans don’t have internet access. Many are also poor and rely of government financial aid for their studies and would need this information too.

Student organisations don't provide information but disrupt lectures later.
Student political organisations such as SASCO, PASMA, SADESMO and many others often go on strike once the academic year has started, but maybe they should be spearheading programmes that should inform high school pupils about university life and degrees. These programmes would result in pupils getting necessary information before arriving at university so problems they find which lead to strikes are alleviated.

It seems that government, universities, parents and students need to work together to make an effort to provide information to all those that need it before the start of the academic year to avoid long queues that lead to stampedes and deaths at universities.

No comments:

Post a Comment