Chang­ing our city

Grocott's Mail - - NEWS - By ASH­LEY WEST­AWAY

Rhodes Univer­sity is com­mit­ted to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in re­vi­tal­is­ing pub­lic school­ing in Gra­ham­stown. The ex­tent of its com­mit­ment is un­der­lined by the fact its Vice-Chan­cel­lor, Dr Sizwe Mabizela, per­son­ally heads up an in­sti­tu­tional pro­gramme aimed at co­or­di­nat­ing all ef­forts in this re­gard.

The coun­try’s ed­u­ca­tion prob­lems are well-known. Last year for ex­am­ple, it was con­firmed that four out of ev­ery five South African chil­dren in Grade 4 can­not read for mean­ing in any lan­guage.

What makes Dr Mabizela’s ini­tia­tive unique is that he recog­nises the Rhodes Univer­sity stu­dent body as an ed­u­ca­tional re­source. Specif­i­cally, he sees agency, ca­pac­ity, in­tel­li­gence and com­pas­sion in ev­ery sin­gle Rhodes stu­dent.

The pur­pose of the univer­sity pro­gramme is to har­ness th­ese qual­i­ties, so that Rhodes can change school­ing in this city for the bet­ter. Af­ter all, the prob­lem here is man­age­able – only 1 200 chil­dren en­ter the school­ing sys­tem ev­ery year. There are only about 15 000 pupils in the Gra­ham­stown pub­lic school­ing sys­tem as a whole, com­pared with hun­dreds of thou­sands in larger lo­cal­i­ties.

More­over, when one con­sid­ers that there are more than 7 500 Rhodes stu­dents, then in the­ory, if ev­ery Rhodes stu­dent took re­spon­si­bil­ity for the ed­u­ca­tional de­vel­op­ment of only two school chil­dren the stu­dent body could cover the en­tire lo­cal sys­tem!

Dr Mabizela has tasked RUCE (Rhodes Univer­sity Com­mu­nity En­gage­ment) to har­ness and or­gan­ise stu­dent vol­un­teer­ing. Over the past few years, RUCE, headed by Di Hornby, has done an ex­cel­lent job in rais­ing the sta­tus and pro­file of com­mu­nity en­gage­ment and vol­un­teer­ing on cam­pus.

There are many won­der­ful ed­u­ca­tion vol­un­teer­ing op­tions at RUCE, rang­ing from read­ing sup­port for foun­da­tion phase learn­ers all the way up to men­tor­ing sup­port for ma­tric­u­lants.

Fur­ther­more, RUCE is in­creas­ingly com­mit­ted to test­ing and im­prov­ing the ef­fec­tive­ness of its pro­grammes.

For ex­am­ple, ev­ery­one in­volved in the ma­tric­u­lant men­tor­ing pro­gramme (9/10ths) is thrilled by the fact that it as­sisted 52 Grade 12s from lo­cal no-fee pub­lic schools to ob­tain Bach­e­lor level passes in 2017. Many of th­ese young peo­ple reg­is­tered as first-year stu­dents at Rhodes this week.

Since one of Dr Mabizela’s aims is to make Rhodes Univer­sity ac­ces­si­ble to the lo­cal com­mu­nity, this is tan­gi­ble ev­i­dence of progress.

In­creas­ingly, one of the hall­marks of an ex­cel­lent Rhodes stu­dent is a com­mit­ment to com­mu­nity en­gage­ment. All stu­dents are en­cour­aged to visit RUCE to learn about the ex­cit­ing vol­un­teer­ing pro­grammes on of­fer.

• Ash­ley West­away, is the Man­ager, Gadra Ed­u­ca­tion

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