Siyaphumelela, which means ‘we succeed’, is an initiative to improve the capacity of five South African universities to collect and analyse student data to boost student success. It is funded by America’s Kresge Foundation and coordinated by the South African Institute for Distance Education. Last week the second Siyaphumelela Conference was held in Durban.
South Africa’s National Student Financial Aid Scheme is being substantially overhauled to pave the way for assistance for a broader range of deserving tertiary students while recognising government’s responsibility to eliminate structures that lumber university drop-outs with loan repayments.
Universities are honour-bound to defy conventional approaches to students, otherwise they merely perpetuate inequalities for disadvantaged students that the higher education system has been producing for decades, said Dr Tim Renick, vice-president for enrolment management and student success at Georgia State University in the United States.
“We want to move away from promising practices into proven institutional models, to demonstrate that students from all types of background can succeed,” says Jenny Glennie, executive director of the South African Institute for Distance Education, which is leading a four-year initiative that uses data analytics to improve student success and graduation rates.
Resolving problems around student fees, accommodation, food and career guidance had to take precedence when discussing student success in South African higher education, as ignoring these issues only perpetuates an unequal society, says University of the Witwatersrand Vice-chancellor Professor Adam Habib.