Maximise your second chance − this was the message to the 130 new students who were welcomed to the SciMathUS class of 2022 during a ceremony at Stellenbosch University (SU) on Monday, 14 February.
The SciMathUS university preparation programme forms part of a variety of units within the Faculty of Education at SU and specifically in the Centre for Pedagogy (SUNCEP). The programme annually offers learners who have already passed Grade 12 but do not qualify for higher education selection a second opportunity to improve their National Senior Certificate (NSC) results in Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Accounting. This will enable them to re-apply for university programmes, specifically those focusing on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related fields.
Director of SUNCEP Dr Benedict Khoboli welcomed the SciMathUS class of 2022.
“Being a SciMathUs student is about growth and changing lives. We chose you because of your performance and because we believe that you deserve our support,” he said.
Guest speaker and 2011 SciMathUS alumna, Cyrilleen McKay, spoke about her upbringing on the Cape Flats and how she had to fend for herself from a young age. “On most days after school my sister and I had to beg for food at surrounding feeding schemes, while at the same time also fighting off social ills such as drug abuse and gangsterism.”
Although she was the first in her family to pass matric, she received poor marks in mathematics, physical science and accountancy and thought her dream of higher education was over. However, she came across an advertisement for the SciMathUs programme, applied, was accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history.
McKay has nothing but praise for the SciMathUs educators and staff whom she described as “compassionate people willing to walk that extra mile”.
“Thanks to SciMathUs I improved my maths and physical science marks by 100%,” she said.
She encouraged the class of 2022 to use the opportunity presented to them through the SciMathUs programme to “re-imagine their possibilities”.
Prof Mbulungeni Madiba, Dean of the Faculty of Education, thanked the SciMathUS class of 2022 for their resilience and achievement despite the disruptions they suffered in their matric year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know you’re here because you did not get the scores in certain subjects needed for admission into higher education. This should not be seen as a failure on your part but an opportunity to start all over again. Some SciMathUS students have gone on to complete PhDs in areas such as neurophysiology, medical physiology and experimental nuclear physics, and are today occupying influential positions.”
Nokwanda Siyengo, SciMathUS programme manager, said they received about 1 700 applications for the 2022 edition of the programme from pupils hoping to be given a second chance to improve their NSC results and to reapply for university courses.
“If you have so many applications it tells you that there is a need out there for second chances, a need for people to be given an opportunity, a need for the SciMathUS programme. We aim to incrementally increase the number of students to the programme every year so as to address that need,” she said.
Sulaimaan Nakooda, 18, from KwaZulu-Natal said he thought all hope was lost when a poor math mark ruled him out from studying at university this year. “But being selected for SciMathUs is basically a second chance for me. I am going to do everything in my power to make sure I pass this year and to get into university next year,” he said.
Nakooda said he wants to complete a BCom (Accounting), hopefully at SU.
Western Cape SciMathUs student Rosmeni Iviwe said she is looking forward to improving her math results in order to study BCom (Chartered Accounting) in 2023. She fell short of the 70% mark needed to qualify for this course.
To be considered for the SciMathUS programme, students must have passed their Grade 12 with a minimum average of 60%, excluding Life Orientation, and have obtained a minimum of 45% in Mathematics and a minimum of 45% in Physical Science.