Top 2019 matriculants welcomed to UP with VC-hosted leadership conference

Posted on January 31, 2020

University of Pretoria (UP) Vice-Chancellor Professor Tawana Kupe recently hosted a Welcome and Leadership Conference in Pretoria where 52 of 2019’s top Grade 12 achievers who have chosen UP as their home received the Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Merit Award (VCDMA). The 52 will become part of a unique group of over 200 recipients of the VCDMA since its inception in 2016.

The VCDMA is awarded to top achievers and provides funding for the duration of their undergraduate degrees.

The conference, held between 21 and 24 January, consisted of various presentations to students and parents on holistic student development, common-purpose leadership, primers on the UP ecosystem, and tips from mentors on succeeding in one’s university career.

In his keynote address on the first day of the conference, Prof Kupe said the event served to “celebrate, recognise and reward academic excellence”.

“At UP there is one thing on which we do not compromise – and that is quality. We breathe and live quality,” Prof Kupe said, adding that the prestigious award is “reserved for the top achievers who are in the academic elite”.

During the week-long conference, students and their parents were treated to a jam-packed programme including presentations that offered many useful pieces of advice and placed an emphasis on the rewards of good academic performance.

One of the top 50 students, Ruan Buitendacht from Hoërskool Vereeniging Gimnasium, said he chose to study BSc Computer Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and IT because “Engineering at Tuks is the best in the country – everyone knows that”.

He said the various presentations that were delivered to the students taught them more than “just superficial things”.

“There’s been a lot of advice for us for on-campus, off-campus, about the work – how to integrate. It’s going to be a lot of fun, but filled with challenges,” said Buitendacht, who will join the 28% of the country’s engineers that UP graduates yearly.

Karla van Wyk said she enjoyed the week. “It has been fun getting to know other people, and also to meet the VC.” Van Wyk, who is a fan of Shakespeare, poetry and writing, googled The Inklings – UP’s dramatic society – and hopes to join them. Van Wyk also hopes to adapt to the environment quickly “and meet friends with the same values, and also just enjoy my studies”.

Monique de Fleurs from Durban will be studying Veterinary Science at UP and hopes to become “a bit more sociable – because I am socially awkward” and “to have a few good adventures…  I would also like to do well academically!”

Sambo Dlamini came to Tuks from Maritzburg College because of the appeal of UP’s School of Engineering. “I also know a few alumni who only had good things to say – it was the natural option.” As far as the experience of the week itself goes, Dlamini said that it had been “very enlightening”. He said he is grateful for the VC’s award and the opportunity to attend UP. “I’ve realised how privileged I am to have got a bursary to come to this school. I’ve been fortunate to spend time with some of the students and hear about what brought them here.”

Noting that “it truly pays to be an achiever” since top achievers who choose UP receive scholarships for the duration of their undergraduate degrees, Prof Kupe praised the 2020 VCDMA intake and said, “Let us make a deal: keep achieving, and I will keep paying. I will tell you how, working together, we can do it.”

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