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 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 lives 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 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 economics and management sciences, humanities and theology 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 also permitted to enrol for the Bridging the Mathematical Gap modules to achieve the required standard for BCom or BSc studies.
“We have several extended programmes in commerce, science, and information technology to give students greater access, while also ensuring that these students are supported and equipped to succeed in their studies,” Prof Du Plessis explains further.
“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 timeous, essential academic information throughout the entire academic year.”
For the NWU, the future employability of graduates is also a key component that should not be viewed as a separate element when addressing access to education.
“The NWU is not only dedicated to providing quality education to its students, but also to ensuring social justice and supporting 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 they 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 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 also regularly engage with industry partners – predominantly enterprises that employ our graduates. The aim is to understand the skills needs of these industries and obtain feedback on how our graduates are performing in the market. In turn, our faculties use this feedback to update our academic programmes,” she adds.
Furthermore, the NWU’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,” says Prof Du Plessis.
These are but a few steps the NWU is taking to help the country on a path to prosperity.
Prof Linda du Plessis.