From application through first year with 100UP Plus

27 July 2015

In 2011, 100 promising grade 10 students from schools in Khayelitsha were chosen by UCT for a mentoring programme, to help prepare them for university. Ninety of those students, who matriculated in 2013, were offered places at UCT for 2014, with 73 taking up the offer. To support their student journey at UCT, CHED started the 100UP Plus programme.

"The university needs you."

This was Assoc Prof Suellen Shay's message to the trailblazing cohort that graduated from UCT's 100UP schools programme and was accepted for fi rst-year study at UCT last year.

100UP Plus programme Students shared a light moment with Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price at the launch of the 100UP Plus programme last year.

She was speaking at the launch of 100UP Plus in 2014, which supports 100UP students enrolled at UCT. During their time at the university, and as part of 100UP Plus, students are supported by a mentor from within CHED and participate in a peermentorship support structure that includes workshops and social meetings.

"In order for us to be an excellent university, you've got to actually be here," Shay told the students. "You've got to be in this place. What I want you to remember, even in those dark hours, is that this place needs you. It needs you to be here; it needs you to succeed; it needs you to walk across that stage and make a powerful contribution in our society."

A two-way teaching experience

Mentorship forms an important part of the 100UP Plus programme. Each student is assigned a CHED staff member, with whom they meet once a month to talk about the challenges and triumphs of university life.

Anita Campbell is one such mentor.

"The programme aims to smooth the transition to university for students from Khayelitsha schools in recognition that students from these schools have been underrepresented in the UCT student body, and that most are first-generation students, who may be less familiar with what is expected of university students, as a result of not having family members who can pass on first-hand experiences of being university students," says Campbell, who teaches mathematics.

"If students have questions or concerns that we can't help with, we use our knowledge of the UCT systems to refer them to where they could get help. We encourage them to persevere through their challenges and we celebrate their achievements. I've been very impressed by my mentees. I'm definitely benefiting from being their mentor!"

The mentoring programme often ends up being a two-way teaching experience. In speaking with their mentees, mentors learn about what aspects of the university are most challenging, and where improvements can be made to the culture of the university system.

Tandie Nkosi is reading for a bachelor of social sciences degree, majoring in film and media, international relations and public policy and administration.

She says being part of the 100UP and 100UP Plus group has had its highs and lows. "As part of the group you feel less alienated in this strange and new place ... [UCT] has a different culture completely to what we know as students who are from Khayelitsha," she explains.

"This programme has taught me that sometimes being part of a group of individuals who understand your struggles and background can be incredibly benefi cial for your academic survival here at UCT."

The 100UP story

The jump from school to university – with its linguistic challenges and daunting deadlines – is intimidating for many new students. The 100UP initiative – launched by UCT's Schools Development Unit in 2011 – aims to settle learners' nerves and prepare them for university with tutelage in languages, mathematics and science, as well as exposure to campus life and activities.

Preparation includes a week-long stay at a UCT residence during the winter holidays, plus regular Saturday tuition for grade 11 and 12 learners, and exposure to UCT events such as career open days, science expos and the Minquiz (regarded as South Africa's top annual science competition for matrics).

One of 100UP's longer-term objectives is to build institutional knowledge, which it's hoped will better inform how the university prepares itself to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse student body.

Story by Yusuf Omar. Photo by Michael Hammond.

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