The upper campus of the University of Cape Town (UCT) came alive on Saturday, January 27, when the incoming first-year class, who were accepted to study undergrad at the best university in Africa, and their families experienced campus life for the first time and got a preview of what lies ahead in the coming years.
The day started with a Parent Orientation session in the Sarah Baartman Hall (SBH), one of two sittings for the day. During the hour-long session, officiated by Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Transformation, Student Affairs and Social Responsiveness Professor Elelwani Ramugondo; key university role-players like Vice-Chancellor interim Emeritus Professor Daya Reddy; president of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) Hlamulo Khorommbi; and Registrar Royston Pillay, addressed a packed SBH on the need-to-knows of university life, and what being a student at UCT means. The recurring theme that underpinned their speeches was the crucial need to provide the cohort with unending support as they navigate life as university students.
Parent Orientation is a highlight on UCT’s annual events calendar and typically takes place a few weeks before the academic year gets under way. The event aims to introduce students’ parents, guardians and sponsors to the UCT community and offers attendees a plethora of information on the support services available.
“On the quality of our students, it attests that your child deserves to be here. They [are here] because they have earned their place at this university. And we are invested in making sure that the talents they bring, bring forth an individual who will make a positive impact in our world, with skills, tools and thinking capacities that have been enhanced [at UCT],” Professor Ramugondo said.
When Emeritus Professor Reddy took to the podium, he told parents, guardians and sponsors that coming to university is an exciting and special period in students’ lives and marks a time that will significantly influence their future trajectory. He also urged them to remember that a university education is about much more than just the academic programme the student registered for.
“It is an opportunity for us to engage with students to ensure that they ultimately emerge not only as specialists [in their field] but that they [become] well rounded graduates, in a sense where they have developed critical thinking, that they are able to communicate well, make their way in this world and contribute effectively to our progress,” Reddy said.
He acknowledged that parents and guardians have made countless sacrifices to ensure that their children are ready for university. And it’s for this reason that the university has a twofold obligation to fulfil. This, Reddy said, is to ensure all students receive the best possible education and to make sure that parents’ sacrifices will be “very well worth it”. He said the new cohort have earned their place at UCT due to their focus, discipline and hard work, which will serve them well during their undergraduate studies and beyond in the world of work.
“UCT is a proudly African university. Each programme of study is innovative, socially engaged and cutting-edge in terms of content and the ways in which it is taught. Over the years your child will be taught and guided by academic staff who are at the forefront of their respective disciplines. They will gain knowledge and tools to enable them to contribute confidently and meaningfully in the workplace and the world,” Reddy said.
An integral role
Addressing the audience, Khorommbi said parents and guardians play an integral role in shaping their child’s academic journey. And the university has now joined them in this partnership, to ensure that all students attain high levels of success in their academic programmes.
“Our university is not just a place of learning. It is a vibrant community where ideas flourish and friendships are formed. As the SRC president, I assure you that we are here to support and amplify the students’ experiences. We’re here to foster an environment that encourages academic excellence, personal development and a sense of belonging,” he said.
Khorommbi explained that the SRC’s role is to represent students – the university’s largest constituency – across all committees and structures at the institution. Their responsibility, he added, is to ensure students are well represented and that their needs are heard, and concerns addressed at all times.
“I understand the concerns that you have as your children step into this new phase. Rest assured that we have robust support systems to ensure that they are well taken care of. Our faculties are committed to nurturing an environment where students can thrive academically, socially and personally,” Khorommbi said.
‘A special place’
According to Pillay, the 2024 first-year cohort comprises approximately 4 200 students and the institution appreciates that both students and parents have chosen UCT as their university of choice. As a token of appreciation, he said the university is committed to fulfilling its obligations towards each student.
Pillay described UCT as a special place that stretches about 25 km2 across the Mother City, from its main campus in Rondebosch to its satellite campus in Philippi, located on the outskirts of the city. And while the university is known for its beauty, he also reminded the audience that it boasts an academic reputation that is second to none and that is recognised and respected globally.
The options available to our students [at UCT] are enormous. Of course, though, that does come with a proper and commensurate amount of responsibility,” he remarked. Four hundred and two of the nation’s best pupils are gathered here. These pupils may not be accustomed to asking for assistance, but they are accustomed to succeeding. However, the most important tip we can offer is to get treatment as soon as you feel you need it.
Pillay also emphasized the need of abiding by the university’s code of conduct, which is based on a set of principles that include justice, truthfulness, and respect.