Looking back and looking forward for purposeful planning

Fatima Rahiman

The 2019 Siyaphumelela conference held in June at the Wanderers Club, Johannesburg was a huge success, focussing on the conclusion of the first phase of the project, while exploring exciting future prospects. Speaking at the conference, Saide Executive Director, Jenny Glennie, outlined successes of the project over the last five years and the different journeys embarked upon by the partner institutions. Fatima Rahiman reports.

Dr Karen Stout,President and CEO of Achieving the Dream, gave the first keynote presentation on “Helping all students succeed. She reflected on the opportunities made available to her through various USA support policies and interventions, highlighting the transformational power of education. Stout also described the development of the USA community college model, and commented on the absence of such hybrid institutions in South Africa. In addition, she provided a broad overview of the work of Achieving the Dream over the past 15 years, sharing lessons learnt and detailing an evolving sustainable model. Paul Quinn College President, Michael Sorrel’s, keynote address on the second day focused on the notion of ‘Leading with Love’ which he believes is a quintessential trait of successful leadership. He highlighted how his college, turned its football field into a farm to generate funds for the school to feed its students. 

Jenny Glennie provides feedback on Michael Sorrel’s presentation and the exciting possibilities for the Siyaphumelela Network in this brief video.

University of Pretoria, Prof Marietjie Potgieter, described her university’s journey to improve the throughput rates in mathematics. She based her presentation on an analysis of three key factors associated with underperformance in mathematics:

  • complexity of the discipline,
  • resource constraints, and
  • under-preparedness of students.

The university’s responses to student challenges have focused on student support, staff capacity and curriculum development using data to guide their plans and interventions.

Umalusi Council for Quality Assurance in General Education and Training Chairperson, Prof John Volmink, raised the need for a new ecosystem for student success. He shared his reflections on lessons learnt over the last 30 years on student under-preparedness and the move away from the deficit model of thinking, which has left students feeling alienated, to the new paradigm of institutional and curricula change for student success. Chairperson of the Kresge Foundation, Rip Rapson, praised the Siyaphumelela programme partners on their accomplishments and outlined a continued commitment of the Kresge Foundation to fund a second phase of the programme, that will entail;

  • Development of a cohort of South African data coaches in partnership with Achieving the Dream;
  • Provision of student success services and expansion of the Siyaphumelela Network to include all South African public higher education institutions.

The VC and DVC panel, featuring presentations by the five Siyaphumelela partner institutional leaders, presented their progress towards realising the vision of student success. They highlighted that their decision-making was based on data and prioritised student success as a strategic goal. Theses presentations demonstrated the evolution data-centered student success approaches since the inception of the Siyaphumelela programme five years ago.The five partner universities highlighted their  work, profiling their significant success in support student success:

Saide is very excited to be continuing as the backbone organisation for the Siyaphumelela Initiative as we build on the expertise, tools and insights that have been developed over the last five years. In response to concerns raised by Minister Naledi Pandor at the 2018 Siyaphumelela conference, our aim is to build a network of all higher education institutions in the country.