On Saturday, 16 March, 100 grade 12 learners from various Khayelitsha schools enjoyed a tantalising foretaste of what first year at the University of Cape Town (UCT) could be like when they attended three special lectures as part of the extended annual UCT Summer School.
These learners are participants in UCT’s 100UP programme, a three-year enrichment initiative started by former Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price in 2011 to address the low numbers of disadvantaged learners from Western Cape townships entering the university. It is the flagship project of UCTʼs Schools Improvement Initiative (SII).
“We discovered that there were many black African students here at UCT, but most of them were not from Western Cape townships,” explained project manager Ferial Parker.
To remedy this, the university committed to selecting five academically-gifted grade 10 learners from each of the 20 schools in Khayelitsha on an annual basis, whom they then continue to support throughout the final three years of high school.
Opportunities given to these learners as part of the 100UP programme include academic booster classes on campus every Saturday, and intensive preparation sessions in the run-up to exams.
During the June/July school holidays they also get to spend a few days (five for grade 12s and three for grade 11s) living in residence on campus and attending talks by faculty members and administrative staff from across the university.
“We want to show them that there are many things to be interested in and to instil a sense of curiosity and a desire to keep learning when they leave university.”
Inspiring lifelong learning
Since 2018, 100UP has also joined forces with UCT Summer School to offer these learners further opportunities for enrichment.
Medeé Rall, director of the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, was quick to point out that the collaboration is mutually beneficial, as the presence of the 100UP learners brings a welcome diversity of culture and age to the Summer School.
“[Our] traditional audience is mostly retired and white,” explained Rall.
“It is important for the Summer School programme to reach a wider, more diverse audience and to develop the next generation of Summer School students and lifelong learners.”
The 100UP participants have been the perfect addition to the Summer School programme, as it also offers them an opportunity to expand their own horizons and be introduced to many different fields of study and future careers.
“We want to show them that there are many things to be interested in and to instil a sense of curiosity and a desire to keep learning when they leave university,” said Rall.
This past Saturday saw the learners attend three Summer School lectures of one hour each in the Kramer Building’s Lecture Theatre 1. The lectures were specially selected from the 2019 Summer School programme by Parker and Rall to appeal to the learners, while the venue offered an exciting introduction to the university’s learning environment.
The programme on Saturday focused on forensics, architecture and the human origin story. Two more day-long Summer School programmes are scheduled for the 100UP learners, and will focus on different topics.
On the edge of their seats
With true-crime drama being an ever-popular genre, it’s hardly surprising that the forensics session had most of the learners perched on the edge of their seats and eventually also emerged as a firm favourite for the day.
Through sharing some of her own story, Sonja Spamer from UCT’s School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics wanted to show them that what is often seen as an elevated field of study actually has very ordinary roots and can help people make sense of the world in surprising ways.
The final lecture of the day focused on the human origin story and sent the learners into fits of giggles over humorous videos of long-armed primates swinging through trees and moving skeleton diagrams comparing the way different hominid species walk.
“I must take the inspiration I get here at UCT back to my friends in the townships, so that they can also know that the township is not the end for them.”
Efforts on each of the lecturers’ parts to make their talks as interesting and engaging as possible were rewarded with positive feedback from learners.
“The lecturers were awesome,” said Kamva Mjanyelwa from Manyano High School.
“They exposed us to different types of opportunities that we can pursue.”
He added that through the various camps and workshops he has attended as a 100UP participant, he feels that he can make a truly informed career choice by the end of grade 12.
The impact of the programme, however, clearly goes beyond academic benefits, as it also builds confidence and equips learners with important life skills.
“It has given me a bigger perspective on life and teaches me to communicate well,” said Luvo Jama from Bulumko Secondary School.
“I’ve learned how to interact with different people and it’s given me a lot of confidence.”
Most importantly, these learners don’t keep the knowledge, skills and resources they have gained through the 100UP programme to themselves, but instead return to their schools to share these with their friends and classmates.
From making copies of physical science notes received in Saturday morning classes to distributing pamphlets collected during one of UCT’s open days across their school grounds, each of these learners is passionate about helping those around them rise.
“I must take the inspiration I get here at UCT back to my friends in the townships so that they can also know that the township is not the end for them. They can go far beyond to other places,” Mjanyelwa said.
Transforming UCT 100 learners at a time
The ultimate goal of the 100UP project is to get as many learners as possible from disadvantaged communities enrolled at UCT or other tertiary institutions across the country.
Apart from these Khayelitsha learners, the programme recruits another 100 or so matriculants from 16 Mitchells Plain schools just after the June examinations each year. They become the Gill Net group and receive an intensive third-term revision programme, along with support in the university application process, National Benchmark Test (NBT) writing, and the challenging National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) application.
This year, 100 of the project learners were accepted at UCT and 109 gained entry to other institutions across the country, translating into a remarkable success rate for the programme.
Importantly, once these learners enter the university, they are not suddenly left to their own devices, but continue to be supported academically and emotionally as 100UP Plus students in UCT’s First-Year Experience (FYE) programme.
“I know 100UP is just a drop in the ocean, but at least it does make inroads,” Parker said.
The project is certainly making an impression, however, as Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng has indicated that she hopes to see it expand even further in the near future.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.