The University of Pretoria (UP) recently hosted its first virtual Welcome Day, which was live-streamed to more than 5 000 first-year students, their parents and guardians.
In an effort to adhere to social distancing restrictions and COVID-19 protocols, UP took the decision to stream the event from its Future Africa institute and campus, marking the first time in the University’s 113-year-long history that the event has been hosted online.
Welcome Day provides new students and their parents with the unique opportunity to be formally introduced and welcomed as members of the UP community. Despite not being a face-to-face occasion, this year’s event did not lack prestige.
UP registrar Professor Caroline Nicholson was the programme director, while Vice-Chancellor and Principal Prof Tawana Kupe and Student Representative Council (SRC) President Lerato Ndlovu were the day’s functionaries.
In his address, Prof Kupe welcomed the first-years warmly and offered a few words of encouragement. “You are part of a historic group of first-year students that wrote matric and are entering the University amid a raging pandemic. I want to encourage you all to be excited about the journey you are about to undertake, but also to remind you to be resilient as we adjust to the new normal.”
His sentiments were echoed by the SRC’s Ndlovu, who encouraged the incoming cohort to immerse themselves in their studies, especially because of the unique circumstances created by the pandemic. “The year ahead will be an exciting and different one, but through all of it, I would like to challenge you to see it as a clear canvas, a year of opportunity, to be part of something bigger and greater – being a part of creating something new.
“As you enter this new space and chapter in your life, I would like you to begin by meditating on this quote by [Botswanan technology entrepreneur] Rapelang Rabana: ‘If you don’t know why you are doing it, you will battle to make the kind of long-term commitment that will see you through the challenges.’”
Apart from a virtual campus experience, where viewers got the opportunity to see the seven UP campuses from the comfort of their homes, they were also clued in about their respective faculties, Academic Orientation Week, how to register, how to select course modules and how to get the best results while studying online.
Innovative, enterprising students
Another of the morning’s highlights was a pre-recorded performance of “Let the River Run” by one of UP’s choirs, the Camerata, conducted by Dr Michael Barrett, Director of Choral Activities at UP and a senior lecturer in Choral Conducting in the Department of Music.
Incoming student Lerato Tuba of Lethlabile in North West share how excited she is about starting her studies at UP. “I’ll be studying medicine (MBChB). I picked medicine because making a difference in someone's life has always given me fulfilment. I also like being challenged and not having to follow a certain routine; with medicine, I will get to work with different people and their various conditions. I picked UP because, in my opinion, it is the best university. I actually made the decision to come here back in 2016 when I first walked into the place – I felt safe, comfortable and at home. I later found out that this institution is popular with excellence in academics and research, which made my choice even easier!”
Preshivan Govender of Durban will also be doing medicine, and said that he chose UP because his interactions with the university were always pleasant. “I have always been passionate about health sciences, the human body and to learn to help heal patients. UP is recognised as one of the leading learning institutions in South Africa and has a reputation for excellent teaching methods. My email and telephonic interactions were very warmly received. The processes are extremely efficient and this has drawn me to the university.”
Aspiring chartered accountant Lebohang Baleni of QwaQwa in the Free State said the university’s top performance in accounting was what sealed the deal for him. “I'll be studying BCom (Accounting Sciences). I picked this course because I want to do my bit to alleviate poverty, perhaps through entrepreneurship. UP was my choice because it’s one of the best universities in SA – in fact, it’s one of the top three universities in SA in Accounting. I'm looking forward to making new friends, though not just any friends – those who will force me to level up and pass my modules with good marks, and graduate in record time.”
Alista Da Silva of Kimberly in the Northern Cape said she believes that studying at UP will give her the necessary advantage. “UP has the best facilities to prepare me for the medical profession. I want to be a doctor with all the necessary skills to help fight South Africa's healthcare problems – to alleviate the pain in our society. I know I will be taught just that at the University of Pretoria. I am also excited to meet new people and make new friends.”
In his remarks, Prof Kupe reminded students that they have a role to play in society, and that at UP, the resources are available to help them achieve that. “Our Ready for Work programme gears students for the workplace, and we have an entrepreneurship programme to help students to start their own business and become employers,” he said, underscoring both the reputation UP enjoys in the marketplace and its capability to turn out innovative, enterprising students.