More than 133 students embarked on a life-altering journey in 2023, having accepted the challenge to reshape their future through the SciMathUS university preparation programme. On the evening of 20 October, their achievements and the profound impact of the programme were celebrated in grand style at a year-end event hosted at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS).
Prof Michael le Cordeur, vice-dean of Teaching and Learning of Stellenbosch University's Faculty of Education, delivered the welcome address. He lauded the SciMathUS students who, thanks to the University's #ChangingLives campaign and the generosity of donors, had managed to overcome the setbacks in their lives and make full use of their second chance at success.
Echoing his sentiments, Ms Nokwanda Siyengo, SciMathUS programme manager and acting director of the Stellenbosch University Centre for Pedagogy (SUNCEP), praised the class of 2023 for completing this journey of personal growth and self-discovery. She called on them to be resilient and serve as ambassadors for SciMathUS in the years to come.
Representatives from the different SciMathUS streams were also afforded an opportunity to share their views. Faith Mmusi, a Group A representative, reminded the audience that setbacks often pave the way to success. Sharing her personal journey, she looked back on the challenging yet rewarding year on the programme. “If something doesn't challenge you, it won't change you," she said. Representing Group B, Uphakeme Mhlongo thanked the lecturers and sponsors for their invaluable support and encouraged her peers to carry the lessons learnt from SciMathUS into their future. Abigail Joubert from Group C (Accounting) expressed her gratitude for the opportunity that SciMathUS provided, noting that the programme not only enhanced students' academic skills, but also instilled a sense of belonging and support. “Thank you to our sponsors and donors because you have changed our lives in many more ways than just academically," she said.
Other speakers included SciMathUS mentors and facilitators. Ms Kelebogile Kedijang, a mentor who herself completed the programme in 2018, is currently studying towards a BScHons degree in Wine Biotechnology. She underlined the value of the programme, offering students a second chance to access higher education, and commented on the reciprocal learning between mentors and mentees. Facilitator Dr Janina Theron, in turn, expressed excitement about the students' journeys ahead and the impact they would undoubtedly have on society.
More than just a celebration of academic achievements, the SciMathUS year-end event showcased the students' resilience and growth. The programme is proof that a second chance is sometimes all that is needed to truly transform lives.