Mentoring new generation of politics scholars

01 October 2012

Mentoring new generation of politics scholarsSettling in: Shawn Duthie (far left, back) has called on mentors (from left, back) Gennaro Inidiveri, Moshin Vali, Farai Majaya and (from left, front) Christy Zinn, Neo Mookodi , Thomas Guattari-Stafford, Riola Kok, Dela Gwala, Lucy Wileman and Neerali Gajjar help first-year politics students settle in to life at UCT.

The struggle that new students face to adapt to university life is well documented, and, once the annual orientation programmes have run their course, many students are largely left to negotiate University Avenue on their own.

To help the greenhorns come to terms with the university's administrative jungle, the Department of Politics has this year instituted the first department-specific mentorship programme for first-year students in the Faculty of Humanities. The Politics Mentorship Programme (PMP) sees third-year students acquaint the freshers, throughout the first years of their studies, with the department's protocol and quirks, explains Shawn Duthie, co-ordinator of the PMP.

While admitting that keeping mentors and mentees in regular contact with each other is a challenge, Duthie is pleased that many students have already benefited from the programme over the first semester. "We had around 60 students that regularly met with their mentors and the response was that it helped them [cope] with the stress and anxiety of the first year at UCT," he reports of progress made over the first semester.

Thomas Guattari-Stafford, mentor and third-year politics student, says the programme is designed to allow senior students to impart "institutional knowledge" on to their less-experienced counterparts. He encouraged first-year students to sign up for PMP, which, as of the second semester, switched from being obligatory to voluntary.

"To be honest, we're struggling a little to get to the hearts of the students," explains Guattari-Stafford. "That is, the students that we really need to be mentoring are the ones that are not interested in the mentorship programme. So that's what we have to discuss and try to work out."

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