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MerSETA Cheque Handover at UWC

MerSETA funding helps UWC tutors teach and learn

The University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Training Authority (merSETA) have forged an alliance in support of the training of teachers enrolled in mathematics and science programmes related to engineering. The alliance was sealed with the handover of a cheque for R1 556 940.00 by merSETA Chief Executive Officer Dr Raymond Patel at UWC's Life Sciences building on Friday 14 June 2013.

This initial funding will help support UWC's Extended Curriculum Project (ECP), which supports educationally disadvantaged students and prepares them to progress to any of UWC's many BSc programmes. One way this is accomplished is by supporting the employment of teaching assistants and tutors, and providing them with teacher training. So far 11 educators and 13 tutors have been recruited for the project.

Speaking at the handover, UWC Faculty of Natural Sciences Deputy Dean: Teaching and Learning (and Head of the Biodiversity and Conservation Biology Department) Prof Gavin Maneveldt relayed the difficulty of educating classrooms with over 400 students and only a single lecturer, aided by one or two tutors who are only a few years older than the students they're assisting and may themselves still be learning.

“The solution is to cut down the student-to-teacher ratio. And that's what merSETA has allowed us to do. With far fewer students per lecturer or teaching assistant, there's time for more intense and personal teaching. And teacher training allows tutors to develop critical thinking graduate skills that can be used beyond their specialty fields.”

Prof Michael Davies-Coleman, Dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, explained that merSETA's support can assist with pursuing the University's vision: finding the most talented among the poorest of the poor and nurturing their ability.

“We in the University find that we have a cohort of very talented young people who have a certain toolbox – but may lack the tools to cope with the technology and the engineering space that we need to occupy. MerSETA helps us to supply the tools that students need to take this country forward.”

MerSETA CEO Dr Raymond Patel explained that visiting UWC was like coming home (he'd been a student at the University in the 1970s and a student leader in the 1980s). He discussed, the contribution that education can make to moving South Africa's knowledge economy towards an industrial economy.

“Organisations like universities and SETAs have to start challenging and changing our societies,” he explained. “We should start inculcating in our young people a sense of civic duty, and get them to understand their responsibilities – as we should all understand our responsibilities.

He noted that it's our duty to transform South Africa in more ways than one. “SETAs should add value to society by transforming society – and that means not just political transformation, but also pedagogical,” he said. “When I look at UWC, that's what it means to me.”