"The greatest gift that anyone can give today's youth is to equip them with critical thinking skills and the ability to reason logically, because these qualities not only make for an excellent student, but also an active citizen that contributes positively to society. And SciMathUS has given each and every one of us that gift."
These were the words of Hlakanipha Tshalanga, one of the 101 students in the SciMathUS class of 2017, at the programme's end-of-year function on Wednesday, 17 October.
The highly successful SciMathUS programme (Science and Mathematics at the University of Stellenbosch) offers talented and motivated students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds who did not qualify to be admitted to university programmes, a second chance to improve their marks. Students can either do Mathematics and Physical Science or Accounting and Introduction into Economics while also improving their NSC Mathematics.
This programme, managed by the Stellenbosch University's Centre for Pedagogy (SUNCEP) equips the students with Academic Literacies. This module includes life, study and thinking skills as well as a computer literacy course. Students also do a language proficiency module.
"I've realised how much my perception of the world and thinking processes have changed. I finally understand the power of asking questions. This entire journey was more than just about academics, it was also hugely about self-actualisation and becoming people we've always wanted to be. Personally, I have uncovered so much about myself because this programme stretched me far beyond what I thought I was capable of," Hlakanipha said.
“I thank SciMathUS for this life-changing experience - the teaching staff constantly made it clear that they cared for us beyond the books, that they care about our goals and that they cared about our well-being."
Hlakanipha also expressed his gratitude to the donors whose contributions have allowed numerous students a second chance. "We understand that SciMathUS is not an easy ship to keep afloat and we thank all stakeholders for ensuring that things stay the way they are."
Dr Jerome Joorst, the residence head of the programme encouraged the Class of 2017 and said that challenges could be overcome with the right approach. “In a game of cricket a batsman does not score 300 in one shot. He chips away and slowly but surely builds a solid foundation until he reaches that score."
"We send you off today with the idea that in life there are lots of hills and valleys to overcome, but you will overcome them: one by one, just like the batman. Keep on working, keep the discipline and make us proud," he added.
According to Dr Trevor van Louw, the Director of SUNSEP, SciMathUS rents a residence at the Boland College in town. Thus it can accommodate all students on campus and in one building. “With Dr Joorst, a few mentors stayed with the students to assist them with different issues during the year. It was a huge decision to make, but it was a good one," he said. In the past many students had to travel to campus daily and it limited our intake of students from the rest of the country. Now these are not issues anymore."
Several funders as well as other supporters of the programme attended the lunch with the students. Ms Nokwanda Siyengo, programme manager of SciMathUS, acknowledged the funders' contribution saying, "It is not just about the money, but the humanity behind it - giving us the opportunity to run this programme and run it well."
"We wouldn't be here today to celebrate these students if it weren't for you. You have served people who would otherwise not have had an opportunity to go through this whole SciMathUS experience. I stand here in humility and receive your support with gratitude."
Applications to attend this programme in 2018 will open shortly. For more information:
Photo: Hlakanipha Tshalanga delivers his message to fellow SciMathUS students. (Photographer: Morgan Jacobs)