Credited with being one of the country's most successful academic development programmes, the Faculty of Commerce's Education Development Unit is a space where students form bonds akin to those found among families and are given the freedom to develop their own culture.
"The EDU (Education Development Unit) programmes go beyond academic support, providing students with a space where their identity is acknowledged and they can authentically be themselves," says Daniel Munene, EDU's programme coordinator, commenting on how some of the successes of these programmes are gradually being mainstreamed at the Faculty of Commerce.
In addition to curriculum and psycho-social support, Munene and his team work closely with a network of partners and organisations to offer additional assistance, such as bursaries to students.
"We've shifted the perception of 'otherness' and the deficit model that comes with this. We're now showcasing what good teaching and student support should and could be. As a testament to this, we're now inundated with requests from mainstream students wishing to shift to the EDU."
EDU students often come away from the programme with life-long bonds, and EDU staff work hard to provide students with a home away from home and a sense of family in which they can thrive. And this, maintains Munene, is one of the main reasons why students ask to join the EDU programme.
Proud Faculty of Commerce graduates, after being capped and hooded during the June 2014 ceremony.
The first-year experience
EDU also facilitates the first-year experience (FYE) on behalf of the Faculty of Commerce, an extended orientation programme for first-year students that ensures they get access to a range of support essential to their all-round success at UCT.
The support offered is similar to that offered to commerce EDU students, with elements of the FYE programmes found in other faculties. In the Faculty of Commerce, FYE services include being offered a mentor: a senior student who helps the first-year student come to grips with academic demands, while not ignoring the social aspects of campus life. An early assessment report monitors students' academic progress, flagging any issues early enough that they can be addressed, and floundering students can be helped back on their feet before the end of the semester.
Munene believes it is support like this that has seen the EDU achieve a throughput rate of more than three times the national average.
EDU student MichÃ© Roode says that the strong sense of family is not restricted to the students, but extends to the staff, too. "What distinguishes EDU from mainstream is that we know each other personally. We've grown together, we've failed together, we've succeeded together, and you feel as if you're part of a family."
EDU graduate Katekani Baloyi says that he felt right at home from day one: "We were made to feel special within the university through the extra support we received in the form of smaller class sizes, longer tutorial sessions and additional workshops for our courses. Our lecturers knew us by name! It really elevated my university experience, making me feel like I was more than just a number."
Story by Abigail Calata.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.