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PhotoVoice Exhibition: Student Success At UWC

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

UWC’s Women’s & Gender Studies Department invites you to visit the PhotoVoices Exhibition at UWC Library, celebrating the way students achieve success at university - in stunning visual form.

PhotoVoices 2017: Stellar Student Success Exhibition at UWC

University: it isn’t easy.

There are a million difficulties on the way to getting a degree, diploma or certificate - not just attending classes, handing in assignments and passing tests, but also staying safe on and off campus, ensuring financial and food security, and trying to keep a reasonable work-life balance while facing tough political situations.

“Over the years, students have shown us how they have experienced feelings of vulnerability, unsafety, and disempowerment on the basis of a range of intersecting identities, including gender, religion, ethnicity, class, sexuality, mother tongue and race,” says Prof Lindsay Clowes of the Women’s & Gender Studies Department at the University of the Western Cape (UWC). These intersecting experiences mediate their ability to learn.”

So when students succeed, we should celebrate that.

That’s why the Women’s & Gender Studies Department invites you to visit an exhibition celebrating the way students overcome challenges, obstacles and constraints to make the most of their time at university.

The exhibition consists of a selection from the 48 individual posters of the students’ reflections, and explores some of the enabling factors that 3rd year students in the WGS Department identified as important in overcoming the difficulties they confronted in their learning journeys.

PhotoVoices 2017 Exhibition: Student Success at UWC

  • Date: Daily, 1 February 2018 - 3 March 2018,

  • Times: from 08:20am - 00:00am

  • Venue: UWC Library Atrium, Level 5.

  • Entry: Free to all - so come and see!

The focus on student success emerges out of earlier research conducted by students concerning their and their peers’ experiences on this campus: In 2014 the focus was on feeling safe and unsafe; in 2015 on feeling empowered and disempowered; and in 2016, on student protests.

This early research focused on the many and varied obstacles to learning. But while we know quite a lot about the obstacles to learning, we don’t know much about how students overcome these obstacles - and yet they do. So the focus of the research in 2017 was on exploring what kinds of resources had mattered to students who had successfully reached their 3rd year of study.

The key to success? A little help from your friends (or teammates, at least).

“Perhaps the most significant thing to emerge was the importance of friendships, and both formal and informal groupwork,” Prof Clowes explains. “Social Work students insisted that the groups they’d been put into in first year had been the single most important thing to get them through. Lots of other students spoke about study groups they’d created more informally, and how important these were. Others foregrounded institutional support structures such as the Writing Centre and the Library.”

As Aneeqa Abrahams, one of the students who took part in the PhotoVoice project (which she saw as a very innovative and exciting idea), notes: “Navigating through the life of a student requires a certain type of discipline and determination that can take over your entire life. But I had people I could depend on, and we understood that if we wanted to graduate we would be able to do it together.”

The lesson?

“If you want to get through something, go through it with someone else,” Aneeqa says. “it always makes it easier - and it did for me.”

Interested in learning more? Why not come down to the Library and see for yourself? And if you’re feeling particularly inspired, why not ponder a few of the following questions as you walk around?

  • What strikes you as important about these stories?

  • If you are a senior student, have you experienced anything similar? And what advice do you have for first year students?

  • What ideas do you have about ways in which UWC could do more to promote student success?

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