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Forestry and Wood Science

After impressive effort and collaboration with the AgriScience Faculty, this was to be our first trip together to Grabouw to visit Groenberg Senior Secondary. Dr Gillian Arendse, Miss Bongi Mdingi and I represented the Centre for Student Recruitment and Career Advice (CSR). We were accompanied by Dr Philip Crafford (PhD in Wood Product Science) and Miss Ashley Prins (MSc in Forestry and Wood Science) from the Department of Forest and Wood Science in the AgriScience Faculty.

Leaving the CSR at 9:30 in the morning, we travelled over the mountain into the picturesque Apple Valley, Grabouw, not more than 50 km from Stellenbosch. Groenberg Senior Secondary is situated in the suburb of Pineview. On our arrival, we were welcomed by Mrs May and accompanied to the school's computer hall. We underestimated the resources available to set up the room for the presentation but, nevertheless, after help with shuffling some chairs around, moving to a different room and assistance from other teachers, we managed to set up a space where the presentation could take place.

We were privileged to get the opportunity to present to grade 11 and 12 learners from Groenberg Senior Secondary. There were around 30 learners listening to a presentation by Miss Ashley Prins on Forestry and Wood Science. Her presentation introduced learners to the AgriScience Faculty as well as Forest and Wood Science. She firstly explained to learners what the programme is and what they can expect on a year-to-year basis while studying for the degree. She showed the learners pictures on practical work that gets done by the learners out in the field. She then discussed the various products that are made out of wood. We were all rather surprised that the industry uses wood particles to make products like ice cream, nail polish, stockings and toilet paper (and not just for building materials and furniture). Lastly, she explained that there are two different streams that one can apply to: either Forestry and Natural Resources Science or Wood and Wood Production Science. She also listed the entry requirements for each stream and touched on the possibility of starting off in Forestry and then moving over to engineering, provided your marks are good enough.

After Miss Prins's presentation, Miss Bongi Mdingi from the CSR spoke to the learners about the other programme offerings at Stellenbosch University (SU); entry requirements for these programmes; funding options available; as well as all details about the National Benchmark Tests (NBTs). There were a few learners in the audience who had already started with or completed their applications to SU and had some general questions regarding what is next. We handed out minimum requirement booklets to all the attendees. Bongi drew the statistics of all students who had an incomplete application on our system on Sun-i, and we asked them to stay behind after the session. The two of us then assisted these learners with information about what is still outstanding to complete their applications and gave some advice on second and third programme choices. To date, we have received 22 applications from Groenberg Senior Secondary, of which only five applications are complete. Bongi is still in contact with Mrs May to get the outstanding documents from the learners whose applications are incomplete.

Dr Arendse ended the session with an inspirational and motivational talk on future careers, innovative thinkers as well as how technology is changing rapidly every day. He touched on the transition from school to university.​

Bongi and I stayed behind at Groenberg Senior Secondary and Dr Arendse, Dr Crafford and Miss Prins went to Umyezo Wama Apile Combined School (about 3 km up the road) to deliver the same presentation and interact with the grade 12 Mathematics learners. Umyezo Wama Apile has a beautiful new building with a good infrastructure for learning. The feedback from the teacher was the frustration with the talent of the learners at the school but their lack of motivation to use this talent. The school is hoping to find ways to improve the quality of education by motivating learners. Umyezo Wama Apile Combined School currently has two incomplete applications to Stellenbosch University.

After an eventful day and interaction with two completely different groups of learners, we took the road back over the mountain and into our on beautiful valley. I think I speak for everyone in the car when I say that we returned with more questions and an eagerness to know more about what different departments at SU offer. And there is always the silent question after an interaction like that: did we add value to the lives of those learners? Did we motivate one soul there, to stand up out of the everyday circumstances and challenges they are facing? That is a question that we can hopefully answer in the near future.

“We enjoyed the opportunity to go with our colleagues from the Centre for Student Recruitment and Career Advice."

“This joined effort certainly created a more significant impact and greater awareness amongst the high school learners and teachers."

“We (staff and post-graduate student) certainly learned much more about our own University and the many different undergraduate study opportunities and minimum requirements."

“I would recommend all departments who are looking to attract young, bright minds to study with them, to partner with the Centre for Student Recruitment and Career Advice to increase your chances and reach your goals."

“Finally, it is always wise to target schools and/or learners as early as possible to plant the right seeds and extend their future vision for career and study opportunities." – Dr Philip Crafford