As the oldest of seven children, the pressure was on for Malilimalo Phaswana when he decided to pursue a degree in actuarial science at UCT.
Upon his arrival, he heard about a programme that provided extra training and support. Given the difficulty of his chosen course, the decision to enter the Education Development Unit (EDU) was a no-brainer.
“When I saw all of the services they offer, I thought: ‘Wow, they actually do this for students? It’s excellent.’”
If he had known about the programme before arriving, he would have been a great deal less nervous about the jump to university.
Now, in the first year of his academic articles in the college of accounting, Phaswana is full of compliments for the EDU programme and its dedicated staff.
“It’s one thing to be an educator or a teacher, but to take the extra step, where you are taking on additional support roles, it just shows that you must really be passionate about what you are doing.”
This passion and compassion really shines through.
Mentoring and support
Having been a tutor, and now a teaching assistant (TA), Phaswana finds joy in mentoring younger students.
As a student in the EDU he benefited from this sort of guidance, having been assigned a student mentor in his first year.
“Once you have experienced how much it has helped you, you really want to pass that on to someone else. Because you know how much value there is in mentoring.”
What is EDU?
EDU functions alongside the so-called ‘mainstream’ stream. Students write the same tests and exams, but a number of their classes are held separately.
“Everything we do is pretty much at the same level; it’s just a way of delivering the lectures and the tutorials and giving us extra material in order for us to do the best we can,” Phaswana explains.
Students are also offered a number of additional workshops. In first year, they complete a course called Step Up. This aims to help with the transition to university and covers topics such as managing an academic workload, goal setting, time and stress management and exam preparation.
Academic progress is also monitored and students have regular contact with an academic development (AD) officer.
Although the monitoring process was nerve-racking at first, Phaswana soon came to realise that it was more about helping him to achieve his best than pressuring him to attain a certain mark.
“They kind of just assess you and try to understand who you are and what your potential is, which I find very special,” he says.
The programme also helps students think critically about their chosen career paths and provides guidance on meeting their end goal.
Within two years Phaswana had made the move over to accounting. Now he is well on his way to achieving his goal of becoming a chartered accountant.
“They would bring guest speakers to motivate us and tell us what actually happens in the real world,” he says. Given that accounting is a very theory based course, Phaswana found this industry insider perspective very helpful.
“I think that helps develop a passion for what you do. Because if you don’t see beyond the books, beyond the classroom, then it becomes very methodical and boring,” he says.
So what is EDU getting right?
“I think firstly just recognising that there is a need. Because obviously all students have different profiles. We don’t all have the same background. So just acknowledging it firstly is a very big step,” says Phaswana.
But EDU is thoughtful and inventive in the ways they run their classes and deliver course content.
“As much as the assessments are the same … just by stepping back and thinking: ‘What is the best way in which I can approach this subject and this topic?’, then by delivering it to students in a way that may aid in the challenges that they have, that is innovative.”
They also encourage a collaborative, engaged and supportive learning space, where students hold each other to account and create a learning community.
Fact vs fiction
“I think the misconception is that you have to extend your year. That is what everyone apparently thinks, which is really not true.
“Secondly, there is a perception that the assessments are easier.”
Students write the same tests and learn the same content. Key courses may be run separately, but differences occur through presentation, not content. In fact, between the additional workshops, mock exams and guest speakers, EDU students often have a larger workload.
“At the same time you are acquiring more skills. You learn to deal with more work. You learn to plan your time more. It ends up benefitting you at the end of the day.”
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