History Made with Creation of National Platform for Student Affairs and Services
The creation of a national body, the Southern African Federation for Student Affairs and Services (SAFSAS), and the hosting of its inaugural conference have brought the sector - for the first time - under one roof to collaborate on strategies to enhance student development and support.
The establishment of the federation, supported by the Department of Higher Education and Training, benefits Student Services professionals based at tertiary institutions around the country as it provides a united body to tackle critical issues facing students and student affairs and services as well as providing the opportunity to work towards a coherent, equitable and professional organisation.
‘In this way we move away from the silos in which we operate and become a dynamic and cohesive voice for students in higher education South Africa,’ said Dr Saloschini Pillay, President of the new organisation and also Manager of Student Support Services at the College of Health Sciences.
The Executive Director of Student Services, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, is Deputy President of SAFSAS.
The organisation comprises the following professional bodies:
* South African Association of Senior Student Affairs Professionals (SAASSAP)
* Southern African Association for Counselling and Development in Higher Education (SAACDHE)
* National Association of Student Development Practitioners (NASDEV)
* South African Association of Campus Health Services (SAACHS)
* Association of College and University Housing Officers – International (ACUHO-I)
* Higher and Further Education Disability Services Association (HEDSA)
* Financial Aid Practitioners of South Africa (FAPSA).
Speaking at the Conference, Pillay highlighted five critical areas impacting Higher Education in South Africa:
- The professionalisation of Student Affairs and Services;
- The provision of Student Accommodation in Higher Education: Challenges and Implications;
- Student Governance and Leadership;
- The White Paper on Post-School education: implications for Student Affairs and Services; and
- Student Funding: experiences and challenges.
The President Emeritus of the International Association of Student Affairs and Services, Dr Roger Ludeman of the United States, delivered the keynote address titled: “Professionalising Student Affairs and Services … an International Perspective”.
Ludeman examined the history and evolution of student support services in the United States and cited examples of best practices in professionalising student services. ‘The difference between being just a civil servant and being a professional is that you don’t accept your lot in life. You try to improve it in the interests of your students and your profession,’ said Ludeman.
‘Using your agreed upon principles, values, theories and skills, you continually act for everything you believe in to try and enhance the learning and development of every student who comes through your university.’
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Transformation and Student Affairs at the University of Cape Town, Professor Crain Soudien; and Vice-Chancellor of the Durban University of Technology, Professor Ahmed Bawa, also delivered keynote addresses at the three-day conference.
Soudien spoke on: “Transformation of Higher Education – Realities, Challenges and Opportunities”, while Bawa’s address was titled “Current Realities Impacting Students and Student Affairs and Services in Higher Education … Charting a Way Forward.”
Director of University Teaching and Learning Development at the national Department of Higher Education and Training, Professor Nan Yeld, outlined challenges facing student support staff.
Yeld said while universities recognised teaching and learning and research, student services was an area that seemed to be overlooked. She said universities should consider acknowledging the good work done servicing this crucial area by awarding student support professionals.
Several Student Services professionals presented papers at the Conference on a wide variety of topics.
Chairperson of the SAFSAS Steering Committee, Dr Llewellyn MacMaster, said: ‘The birth of SAFSAS which took place with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in Bloemfontein was a very important moment in the history and development of student affairs and services within the Higher Education and Training sector.’
MacMaster acknowledged the efforts of everyone involved in hosting the Conference.
- Raylene Captain-Hasthibeer