Student Services Division and Student Support Services Staff and Student Presentations at the SAFSAS Inaugural Conference
The University of KwaZulu-Natal made considerable impact at the inaugural Southern African Federation for Student Affairs and Services in Higher Education (SAFSAS) conference. Staff members of the Student Services Division and the Student Support Services took great pride in representing the University by providing stimulating, thought-provoking and captivating presentations at the Conference.
Mr Sachin Suknunan, Information Officer in the Student Services Division, delivered two presentations focusing on models and strategies in Student Affairs and Services (SAS). His first presentation revolved around the strategic use of information systems such as data-mining, digital dashboards and predictive systems as a means of providing strategic information (knowledge) to enhance decision making, efficiency and service delivery in Student Affairs. Mr Suknunan emphasised these types of systems were used at universities in developed countries and proper investment and integration of these systems could provide a variety of strategic benefits.
Suknunan’s second paper focused on research-based evidence and interventions in SAS. He highlighted the possibility of enhancing service delivery based on deriving empirical evidence from students. Suknunan cogently argued that just as how one applies research techniques to academic studies, the same can be applied to the support sector such as SAS. This could in turn allow strategies and interventions to be based on empirical evidence and statistics that could inform proactive strategies.
Ms Roshanthni Subrayen from the Disability Support Unit on the Edgewood campus also embarked on two thought provoking presentations. The first paper was generated from a qualitative study that focused on residential experiences and its impact on academic outcomes for students with visual impairments at UKZN. In this study Subrayen argued the social exclusionary processes, power positions, human rights violations and poverty are phenomena that create barriers at student residences, and further challenged the notion of equitable academic outcomes for all. Subrayen also conveyed that the research presented in the paper also gave a voice to women with visual impairments experiencing social exclusion at student residential facilities in higher education.
The second presentation by Subrayen was equally exciting as it provided some exposition on the contradictions and tensions around equity, access and participation discourses and what it means for students with disabilities in Higher Education, internationally and in South Africa. Policy and legislative initiatives foregrounded on human rights, right to education, social justice, equity, access and participation in Higher Education were the highlights of the paper.
Keeping in line with disability in Higher Education, Ms Yanga Futshane from the Disability Support Unit on the Pietermaritzburg campus also made a valuable contribution at the Conference. Futshane’s presentation revolved around the concept that many Higher Education Institutions in South Africa, including Technical Vocational Education and Training institutions, did not have Disability Units in place and those that have them did not have the appropriate support infrastructure to support and enhance students with disabilities.
At the Conference Futshane also represented the Higher and Further Education Disability Services Association (HEDSA) and her presentation attempted to inform Higher Education Institutions on the nature of support that HEDSA can provide in order to create an enabling environment for students with disabilities.
There were also papers that were presented by the Student Support Services staff belonging to the various Colleges at UKZN.
Dr Saloschini Pillay, Manager: Student Support Services in the College of Health Sciences (CHS), and her colleague Ms Kamilla Rawatlal, delivered a paper which explored the concept of ‘positive career compromise’ in addressing career counselling and development intervention in South African Higher Education. Given that the current practice of career counselling and development in Higher Education has been found limiting because of a focus on psycho-metric assessments and person environment fit, this presentation highlighted the importance of interventions addressing the social institutional realities in Higher Education. The need to widen career counselling and development intervention in Higher Education Institutions to address this social reality and inform contemporary practice through innovative and reflective practice, was the focus in this presentation.
Similarly, Ms Wulganithi (Wulli) Thaver, also from Student Support Services in the College of Health Sciences, presented a paper titled “Impacting student success: An innovative approach to respond to students’ needs during the transitional stages.” The paper focused on developing strategies that would identify students’ unique needs and implement programmes to enhance retention, throughput and success. It highlighted the structured and innovative Student Support Programme that is currently offered by Student Support Services in the College of Health Sciences for all its first entry students. The presentation provided an overview of the structured student support programmes, the identified needs of the CHS’s first entry students and the impact of the relevant interventions on their transition into the university environment and their overall academic performance and well-being.
Ms Shelley Barnsley, Manager: Student Support Services in the College of Agriculture, Engineering and Science (CAES) also represented her College with a presentation titled, “It’s not business as usual: The case for a decentralised framework of student counselling in higher education.” This conceptual paper critically reflected on the merits as well as the challenges of the framework of decentralised counselling after two and a half years of implementation of a devolved model of student counselling in the counselling service of CAES at UKZN.
Ms Lindiwe Ngubane from Student Support Services in the College of Humanities presented a paper based on the lived experiences of mature-aged undergraduate students in Higher Education which was based on a case study done at Edgewood campus. The study involved a cohort of teachers that were sent by the Department of Basic Education in 2011, from Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces, to embark on Bachelor of Education degree. These educators did not have Teachers qualifications, but most of them were in the field for a long time and were therefore mature-aged students between the ages of 25 and 45. The study revealed some fascinating findings that were highlighted by Ms Ngubane at the Conference.
Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, Executive Director: Student Services, together with Ms Lucia Khambule, UKZN’s Central SRC member, were panelists in a panel discussion on Student Governance and Leadership. Preceded by comments from Professor Crain Soudien who, amongst others, highlighted the fact that student leaders need to focus on enhancing the student experience and on teaching and learning, the panel explored various aspects of student governance and leadership. These included the question of whether Student Affairs should be engaging leaders outside the SRC; the role of SRCs in shaping and transforming institutions of higher learning; the issue of academic requirement for SRC membership; whether the positioning of the SRC in university statutes was in fact appropriate; the critical question of ‘what is the student interest?’; and the appropriate model for student governance in HEIs, amongst others.
|Shelley Barnsley.||Wulganithi Thaver.|
| Dr Saloschini Pillay and Dr Sibusiso
| Sachin Suknunan with Professor |
|Lucia Khambule, Central SRC Member.|