After an increase in dropouts of First Year students in 2018, the varsity has created a mentorship program through which the ability of first years to adapt and cope in the new environment, will be tracked and the necessary support given to prevent them from dropping out in future.
The Sol Plaatje University Mentoring Program will provide First Year students with a supportive one-on-one relationship with a peer mentor who is focused on promoting the overall success of the student. Its’ vision is to enhance the quality of experience, and improve the success of SPU students. This will thereby contribute to the cumulative success of the SPU student body and the community in which it operates. The aim of the program is for the mentors to form supportive, coaching relationships with mentees and to offer support or strategies related to academics, health and personal wellness as well as mental health issues.
As of Monday 21 January, senior students in various schools, have been receiving week-long training to become peer mentors, whose roles will be to assist with the orientation and registration of the first-year class of 2019 and to act as a medium between First Years and Student Affairs.
The training had multiple presenters from organizations such as the SANDF, Lifeline and SafeTalk, who tackled issues such as Stigma Reduction, Health and Wellness, HIV/AIDS testing and treatment and Safe Sex.
According to the project manager, Ms. Nthabiseng Afrika, unplanned pregnancy is one of the leading causes of dropouts. “We’ve had five unplanned pregnancies in the first year group in 2018, from which three dropped out. We want to arm our female students with knowledge regarding safe sex and show them that they do not have to end their education because of pregnancy.”
“This initiative also informs peer mentors regarding the challenges that students within the LGBTIQA community could be facing and deconstructs stigma and stereotypes”, says Trevor from Lifeline.
Prof Jean Baxen, Deputy Vice Chancellor, comments that the program aims to cultivate student leaders who will act as a guide, for the First Years, to the various resources such as Family Planning, Mental Health and Health and Wellness that SPU has to offer. “We want to start with inclusion and access, which will lead to success”.
The Solomon Star spoke to one of the two students who persisted in their studies despite facing an unplanned pregnancy. Jennifer*(19),now second year Bachelor of Education Student, comments that she had to keep on pushing. “My parents were relying on me. I have to make them proud and make myself proud. I know I can study and be a mother, not just for me but for my baby as well”.