Inclusive co-curricular activities good for University students
"The Centre for Student Support Services (CSSS) at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) hosted a Co-curriculum on 14 May: The co-curriculum: an integrated practice or fragments at the fringes of university experience?"
The seminar was presented by local and international guest speakers including Professor Teboho Moja and Mr Monroe France (New York University) and Professor Ronelle Carolissen (Stellenbosch University).
Director for CSSS, Dr Birgit Schreiber, introduced the guests, who visited UWC specifically to talk about the benefits of incorporating co-curriculum programmes at universities.
“Co-curriculum activities seek to develop Graduate Attributes, enable connection and attachment to the university, enable improved integration into university life, improve employment opportunities and provide support to students participating in these programmes”, Schreiber said in her opening.
She added, however, that universities need to be mindful of unintended consequences which disadvantage the disadvantaged students even more. Structures and systems at university might inadvertently be exclusionary and fail to include those students who already do ‘extra’ for their families, such as caring for the young and ill.
Some of the current co-curricular programmes require much additional time and resources which might not be readily available for exactly these students for which the co-curriculum is developed.
The aim of the colloquium was to explore the importance of being involved in co- curriculum programmes which includes activities and initiatives such as HIV/AIDS programmes, student support groups, volunteering, leadership training, mentoring or campus societies.
At the colloquium it was reported that students are able to benefit from co-curriculum practices by applying the knowledge they’ve gained from experiences in their daily lives, as these are skills which cannot be taught in a classroom. As such, students who participate in co-curriculum activities perform better in the classroom than those who are not involved in these programmes.
Prof Moja said that it is always advisable for students to take part in residential and university activities, partnership courses across academic departures, and student affairs, as it is to their benefit.“Participating in programmes available at higher education institutions improves performance in the classroom,” she added.
Prof Carolissen added that co-curriculum programmes might be re-thought of as life-wide learning opportunitiesbased on a model developed by Jackson (2010).
The idea is that students’ complex lives are validated and their range of experiences affirmed as part of positioning the student at the centre of his or her life. Real dialogue and participation is encouraged and life-wide learning principles enable particulary those students who might not have access to formal co-curricular programmes.