About 50 first-year Rhodes University students who overcame serious financial, educational and other disadvantages to enrol at the prestigious university this week received a personal welcome from Vice-Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela.
Many of the students were assisted to achieve their matric bachelor’s pass through intense interventions initiated by Rhodes University in partnership with local education NGO Gadra Education.
But, Mabizela this week told them they accessed Rhodes largely as a result of their own efforts to overcome impossible odds. “Whatever your past, you now have access to a quality education and the opportunity to make a difference. You have the opportunity to build a better future for yourself, your family and the community you came from.”
Rhodes has prioritised interventions to make itself more accessible to disadvantaged local youth. But, as they are still required to access Rhodes through academic merit, Mabizela and others recognised the need to improve matric performance at local schools.
Currently known simply as the “Revitalising Grahamstown Education” initiative, it has, with Gadra Education, introduced mentoring interventions at some schools as well as running the longer term enrichment and study skills intervention programme known as High Impact Supplementary School.
While some of the students welcomed by Mabizela this week came from local high schools involved in these initiatives, dozens achieved their bachelor matric pass through the local Gadra Matric School (GMS).
GMS offers under-performing matriculants a year of intense tuition and a second crack at their matric exams.
Mbeko Banjatwa, from Butterworth, has enrolled for a Bachelor in Social Science at Rhodes. She says she enrolled at Gadra in 2015 after a disappointing matric result in 2014.
She achieved a bachelor’s pass at the end of last year. “I am so excited and happy to be here.”
Nzolo Sixaba, who comes from Grahamstown, says she also enrolled at Gadra to improve her 2014 diploma matric pass.
“Gadra gives you a second chance. They are so supportive.”
She has now enrolled for a BA and is looking to do law later.
Mabizela urged the students to become role models for others who aspired to university.
“Let them see what is possible. Learn at Rhodes and go out and build a better community, a better society, a better world. You have earned your place here and have overcome challenges with resilience and determination.. You are my heroes and heroines.”
By Adrienne Carlisle
Caption: Rhodes University vice-chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela, front third from right, with first year students who have overcome educational and financial disadvantages to get into Rhodes Picture: SUPPLIED
Please help us to raise funds so that we can give all our students a chance to access online teaching and learning. Covid-19 has disrupted our students' education. Don't let the digital divide put their future at risk. Visit www.ru.ac.za/rucoronavirusgateway to donate