Khayelitsha pupils experience varsity life at UCT

The pupils are participants in UCTs 100UP programme.

A hundred Grade 12 pupils from various schools in Khayelitsha had a taste of the first-year University of Cape Town (UCT) experience when they attended three special lectures as part of the extended annual UCT Summer School.

The pupils are participants in UCT’s 100UP programme, a three-year enrichment initiative started in 2011 to address the low numbers of disadvantaged pupils from Western Cape townships entering the university. It is the flagship project of UCT’s Schools Improvement Initiative (SII).

“We discovered that there were many black African students here at UCT, but most of them were not from Western Cape townships,” explained project manager Ferial Parker.

To remedy this, the university committed to selecting five academically-gifted Grade 10 pupils from each of the 20 schools in Khayelitsha every year, whom they then continue to support throughout the final three years of high school.

Opportunities given to these pupils as part of the 100UP programme include academic booster classes on campus every Saturday, and intensive preparation sessions in the run-up to exams.

Since 2018, 100UP joined forces with UCT Summer School to offer the pupils more opportunities for enrichment.

Medee Rall, director of the Centre for Extra-Mural Studies, says the collaboration is mutually beneficial as the presence of the 100UP pupils brings a welcome diversity of culture and age to the traditional Summer School.

The learners also get to spend a few days ­- five for Grade 12s and three for Grade 11s – living in residence on campus and attending talks by faculty members and administrative staff from across the university during the June/July school holidays.

Efforts on each of the lecturers’ parts to make their talks as interesting and engaging as possible were rewarded with positive feedback from pupils. “The lecturers were awesome. They exposed us to different types of opportunities that we can pursue,” said Kamva Mjanyelwa from Manyano High School.

The impact of the programme, however, clearly goes beyond academic benefits, as it also builds confidence and equips pupils with important life skills. “It has given me a bigger perspective on life and teaches me to communicate well. I’ve learned how to interact with different people and it’s given me a lot of confidence,” said Luvo Jama from Bulumko Secondary School.

A parallel programme recruits another 100 or so matriculants from 16 Mitchell’s Plain schools just after the June examinations each year. They become the Gill Net group and receive an intensive third-term revision programme, along with support in the university application process, National Benchmark Test (NBT) writing, and the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) application.

This year, 100 of the pupils were accepted at UCT and 109 gained entry to other institutions across the country, translating into a remarkable success rate for the programme. Once these pupils enter the university, they are not left to their own devices, but continue to be supported academically and emotionally as 100UP Plus students in UCT’s First-Year Experience (FYE) programme.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng has indicated that she hopes to see it expand even further in the near future.