Students Awarded Certificates for Mentoring First-Year Health Sciences Colleagues
Fifty-six senior Health Sciences students at UKZN were congratulated by the Executive Director of Student Services, Dr Sibusiso Chalufu, for committing themselves to mentoring first-years to adjust to university life and achieve academic success.
Chalufu was speaking at a recent Peer Wellness and Academic Mentorship Certification Ceremony held on Westville campus by the College of Health Sciences’ (CHS) Student Support Services in partnership with the Office of the College Dean of Teaching and Learning.
With the transition from high school to university often a challenge for first-year students, the CHS Student Support Services has developed a unique programme making peer wellness and academic mentorship a priority for all. The College saw the need for a holistic approach to student wellness and implemented mentoring programmes which have yielded positive outcomes since their inception as indicated by the swelling number of participants annually.
College Manager for Student Support Services, Dr Saloschini Pillay, said the CHS was currently the only College with a comprehensive, integrated and collaborative programme between the support and academic sector, designed to enhance student success.
‘Peer Wellness Mentors form one part of several strategies that the College Student Support Services has in place to enhance the first-year experience of our students and contribute to their overall adjustment and success,’ said Pillay.
She explained that in the light of the sort of problems students presented with, Student Support Services needed to expand the training programme for peer mentors, strengthen the team support, and find creative ways of responding to specific needs - in particular, the need for support with academic work.
‘We are very proud to have such students graduating from our College because life is not just about receiving but also giving back,’ said College Acting Dean for Teaching and Learning, Dr Frasia Oosthuizen.
‘The mentorship programme requires on-going quality assurance and as such the training and the experiences of both the mentors and mentees are evaluated on an annual basis,’ said Mrs Wulli Thaver, Student Development Officer and Co-ordinator of the Peer Wellness Mentoring programme of Student Support Services.
Thaver said students underwent intensive training which included equipping them with skills to listen, communicate, support and refer mentees appropriately. The compulsory training was followed through with monthly supervision and debriefing with mentors who are regarded as an extension of the support available within the College to help first year students make the transition with ease, and achieve academic success.
Fourth-year Medical student, Mr Bonginkosi Mafuze, said he decided to stay on and volunteer as a student mentor when his tenure ended. ‘It has helped me to grow holistically in becoming a better leader, communicator and manager. It is so rewarding now to see that the students I mentored are now mentors too.’
Mafuze became the Medical Student Representative Council’s Academic and Transformation Leader which helped him further in assisting those who were academically needy.
His sentiments were shared by third-year Medical student mentor, Mr Lushavhana Mashamba, who is on his path to becoming a lecturer and Specialist Neurologist after completing the MBChB programme. Mashamba said because he believed in becoming the very best in life, the mentorship programme was an excellent platform for him to inspire others to share his passion.