PDBY spoke to current Student Representative Council (SRC) President, Lerato Ndlovu on a range of miscellaneous aspects regarding remote learning and its associated impacts on first years. Ndlovu has also cited numerous SRC services available to first years to aid in promoting a smooth transition into their respective tertiary studies.
Ndlovu previously served as the outgoing SRC Deputy Secretary of 2020 and made history by becoming the first black female candidate to hold the title of SRC President at the University of Pretoria (UP).
- You have made history by attaining the title of UP’s First Female Black President, how do you plan on empowering others in the student space with this achievement?
By unapologetically being. If I take a look at all black women who have inspired me (quite a long list, but I’ll just name a few), your Charlotte Maxeke, mam Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Nina Simone and Dr. Shirley Jackson. These women stepped into different territories and they just unapologetically and boldly occupied that space. Some of them were firsts in their own right – they boldly existed in those spaces empowering those that came after them, like myself, to also step into those spaces. It is that overwhelming feeling of knowing it can be done and should be done – normalising it. Alongside this, the office of the presidency will have various initiatives during the year to empower young women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
2. What services and initiatives is the Office of the Presidency’s Plan of Action offering first years this year?
The SRC plan of action will be released and shared on the SRC website and various social media platforms. The plan of action will outline what the SRC plans to do and initiatives throughout the whole year. The SRC will however be very active in first year orientation week, to be of service to first years and assist them with various needs.
3. With the shift to remote learning, how different will the experience of being a first year be (in terms of getting oriented into the University)?
These are truly unprecedented times, and because of that, change is inevitable. Instead of first year students having orientation on campus, it will be online. The orientation programme will ensure that first years are orientated with the institution and acquaint them with different resources which have been put in place for their success. It is however unfortunate that most first years won’t get to experience the atmosphere of a full campus and meeting different faces, however, societies will also be functioning online. This will allow for first years to still get the experience of being part of different communities within the institution. There will also be programmes and initiatives which will take place online again helping to orientate first years into the university.
4. What are some core issues that the SRC can help first years with?
The SRC aims to assist first year students with all matters which are brought to the council’s attention, so whenever you have an issue or concern please reach out. The main issues are often to do with registration, residence and academic support. Now, taking into consideration the shift to remote learning, another main issue will then be assistance with resources and adapting to online learning. The SRC believes that every first year student should be provided with the adequate resources to ensure their success and flourishing at the university. This should include the re-opening of laptop applications by the university for first year students who cannot afford their own.
5. What is the student forum and how can a first year participate in it?
Student forum is a quarterly gathering of students covered and provided for in Section 43 of the Constitution for Student Governance (CSG). According to the CSG, the purpose of the forum is for the SRC to account to students. The SRC presents their report of the quarter and students engage and ask questions on the report. First year students are encouraged to engage in such a forum as they are part of the student body and their voices matter. In 2020, the SRC office of the Deputy Secretary worked closely with the then Chief Justice and constitutional tribunal to finalise new rules and procedure of the forum to ensure that it can take place online. For the year 2021 we wish for a more interactive student forum, more input and interaction from students, key committees and societies.
6. What advice would you direct to first years to ensure a smooth transition into their tertiary studies?
Plan and reach out for assistance. The shift to varsity from high school is not an easy one. It is often accompanied by culture shock, anxiety and uncertainty. As a first year the best and quickest way to adapt is being engaged and planning your time wisely. Take time in engaging with ClickUP and keeping up to date with modules and lecturers. As some courses will continue to be taught online, students should not fall in the trap of not keeping up with lectures and assignments. Should you need assistance of any kind, do not hesitate or wait till it is too late, reach out to the faculty EC and the SRC. Students should also follow as many university related pages as possible [ie.] UP pages, SRC pages, societies pages, key committees (such as RAG, STUKU and Sports), stars mentorship, day houses and different departments like student development and Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender (CSA&G) and SpeakOut. Following such pages will keep you in the know and give a feel of varsity life and activity, above all, they will also assist you in transitioning to varsity.
7. Is there any message you would like to share to first years and the student body at large?
Mine is mainly to lay a challenge and give perspective. Often when we come to varsity, we are sent with the perspective of obtaining our degrees or qualifications, and this is true. It is the main goal. However, I challenge us to also look at our contribution to the UP community and to society as a whole. University is a space where we are all becoming, we are being built. It should also be a space where we as students build the world around us. Let us aim to be a conscious student body, in whichever degree or qualification we are pursuing, in whichever community we form part of, in our different passions and interests we have a responsibility to contribute. Let us contribute to make our UP community and society around us more inclusive and truly representative of all. Now, as we find ourselves in the middle of this pandemic, we shouldn’t see it as a hold or reason not to contribute but as an opportunity to find more innovative ways to contribute and leave a community that we only wished to have. And that is my charge to all UP students, including first year students. Although for first year students you will spend most of the year adapting and adjusting, let this be at the back of your mind even when you’re doing that.