“The University of Cape Town (UCT) is committed to helping your child prepare for change and even to lead the change, not just in South Africa, but also in the world.”
This was the message UCT Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng shared with parents of first-year students during the university’s annual parent orientation engagement. The event was held virtually on Friday, 11 March. Professor Phakeng was joined by Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning Associate Professor Lis Lange, and registrar Royston Pillay.
In her welcome address, Phakeng said that she was pleased that the students had chosen UCT as their university. She added that the academics in the various faculties and UCT support staff are committed to providing students with the help they need to see their undergraduate academic programmes through to completion.
“Coming to UCT at this time [presents] an ideal learning environment. We do not take your child’s choice of a university lightly.”
Phakeng said that the tough times brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and more recently student protests over financial exclusion, provide an opportunity to find solutions to the myriad challenges students face. And students can achieve this, she added, by asking tough questions and challenging their leaders, but without “destroying the good that we have built”.
“This unnerving time provides an ideal teaching and learning arena. Coming to UCT at this time [presents] an ideal learning environment. We do not take your child’s choice of a university lightly. In fact, it’s an honour that you have entrusted your child’s future [to] us,” she said.
Your child is my child
Phakeng told the parents that each student who studies at UCT is part of the university family and “our child too”. She reiterated her commitment to the first-year cohort and to ensuring that they achieve academic success.
She said that she understands that parents might have concerns about their children’s learning experience under lockdown and whether physically distanced learning under UCT’s low-density return to campus approach will deliver the quality of education parents seek for their children.
This year all UCT’s course lectures will still be offered online, but some faculties may offer face-to-face activities in small groups in well-ventilated spaces. The university has adopted this approach to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“Academically the quality of teaching and learning [at UCT] remains at the same high standard that we have [set] ourselves and it’s delivered in ways to help your child to succeed.”
Phakeng said that academics have also initiated a range of activities to help students settle into their studies and have suggested ways for them to connect with fellow students to share common interests.
Teaching and learning
Associate Professor Lange said that remote teaching and learning at UCT started off as an emergency at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – under difficult and uncertain circumstances. But that has since changed. UCT’s strong technological and digital capabilities allow for the university to transition into the new year comfortably.
“We have learned a few things that now allow us to face 2021 with normality,” she said.
She reassured parents that despite the new temporary online learning methodology, teaching and learning at UCT remains at an exceptionally high standard across the faculties.
“We learned from our mistakes and we further improved on our successes.”
In 2020, she said, staff and students worked together to try to understand one another and make the most of the virtual teaching and learning space. And at the end of the second semester last year, students managed to achieve the same good results as in the previous year (2019), which had been under normal teaching and learning circumstances.
Lange told the parents that online learning will soon be the preferred education model the world over and by offering this learning methodology, UCT is moving in the right direction.
“We were good at troubleshooting [last year], we learned from our mistakes and we further improved on our successes. No student is missing out.”
The first-year experience
UCT received roughly 44 000 first-year applications for 2021, but Phakeng said that the institution could only accept and accommodate fewer than 4 000 students.
The first-year experience and how well students settle into university life is important to the executive, academics and all staff, she added. The university’s orientation programme helps students find their way around campus, and acts as a good starting point to help them familiarise themselves with the new environment and the range of UCT support services available. This year the orientation programme took place online.
“We look out for students who may feel lost or scared, and we provide ways for everyone to learn to feel that this is your new home,” Phakeng said.
She reminded the parents that while a large part of their children’s time at university will revolve around studying, that’s not all there is to university life. She urged them to support and encourage their children to explore different interests, discover new skills and maintain a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.
A fair and just university
Phakeng said that UCT is guided by the values of the South African Constitution and the Bill of Rights and always strives to treat all students and staff fairly and with respect.
“There’s no place here for racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic or any other kind of chauvinistic behaviour.”
“There’s no place here for racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic or any other kind of chauvinistic behaviour. Everyone is treated equally and equitably. There’s no place here for despicable, offensive and violent conduct or abuse. When we find that happening, we deal with it,” she said.
“I hope that this session will give you a glimpse into UCT life and how the institution will prepare your child for the future and this rapidly changing world.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.