As South Africa and the world have faced rapidly changing circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Pretoria (UP) has developed a number of programmes to help students and staff cope with lockdowns as well as the switch to online teaching and learning. But not only has UP been working to help students who might be disadvantaged by the switch to online learning, many UP students have also swung into action to help their classmates and the broader society.
The leaders of the University of Pretoria’s residences have established the TukRes Solidarity Fund to assist residence students around the country. The fund has distributed R200 000 thus far to help with groceries, toiletries and data required for fellow students in need. Everyone including members of the community who wish to contribute can click here.
“We are working on a similar intervention for students that are not in residences,” says David Kabwa, president of the UP Student Representative Council (SRC). “So far we have managed to collect R130 000 for day students to assist those in need, and it is yet to be distributed accordingly.”
The student key committees – which include Student Culture, Student Sport and RAG, UP’s student-driven, non-profitable fundraising and community service organisation – have collectively donated R120 000 to the UP Solidarity Fund. “By donating this money, we hope that students will enjoy greater access to complete their studies by providing them with devices and other learning tools that will allow them to fully partake in the online learning initiative for the remainder of the semester,” says Juan-Pierre van der Walt, Manager: Key Committees and Coordinator: Day Houses.
The key committees believe that its offerings should be adapted to remain relevant to the student community. In this case, that meant taking their events online. In order to include students with restricted data access, the committees are working closely with UP’s sub-councils, day houses, faculty houses, residences and societies to make use of their platforms – specifically their WhatsApp groups – to host events, share information and help students be part of value-adding activities while they remain at home.
“As the executive management of UP, we are extremely delighted by the many initiatives our student leaders are taking to ensure that the most vulnerable students are shown the care, solidarity and love for the UP community in its diversity,” says Professor Themba Mosia, UP Vice-Principal for Student Affairs and Residences. “The SRC has reprioritised its budget and had other initiatives to reach students who need essential goods and services. Similarly, the residence sub-council embarked on a fundraising drive to assist students in need. The novel coronavirus has strengthened our resolve as a UP community to beat the odds.”
About 29 students from the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology have also been showing the kind of care and solidarity that Prof Mosia speaks of – by helping school teachers with online teaching. As part of their course requirement students are at various stages of helping teachers from Tsako Thabo Secondary School in Mamelodi, Blue Hills College in Midrand, Laerskool Menlopark and Pretoria Secondary School implement online teaching programmes via Google Classroom and WhatsApp. Support includes developing PowerPoint presentations, updating mark sheets, making online forms available and creating databases. Students are also assisting in finding solutions for teachers to allow learners to upload assignments.
If you wish to keep an eye on the progress of the TukRes Solidarity Fund, visit the TuksRes Facebook page or the TuksRes Solidarity Fund Instagram profile.