Towards the end of June, the fifth annual Siyaphumelela Conference took place at the Wanderers Club, Johannesburg. The Kresge Foundation funds the Siyaphumelela Initiative in five South African universities (Durban University of Technology, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Pretoria, Nelson Mandela University and University of the Free State), an initiative that aims to equip universities with the skills to use evidence-based interventions to improve student success. Kresge is also supporting Siyaphambili (meaning ‘we are moving forward’), a post-school education project located in SALDRU. This conference provided a platform for those involved with Siyaphumelela to share and discuss the interventions they have undertaken over the last five years to tackle challenges in the university sector.
Keynote presenters from the United States included Karen Stout (President and CEO of Achieving the Dream) and Micheal Sorrell (President of Quinn College) who spoke about helping students succeed through holistic student support and tales from the front lines of poverty. Local presenters, Ahmed Bawa and Francois Strydom, reported on the South African Survey of Student Engagement (SASSE) which aims to collect data on how students and lecturers experience university. They encouraged the use of data in strategic planning and the process of transformation. John Volmink (Chairperson of Umalusi) concluded the conference, presenting on a new ecosystem for student success. Moving forward, the plan for the next phase of Siyaphumelela is to expand build a national network whereby all universities in South Africa will have access to the tools and skills developed. SALDRU researchers Nicola Branson and Samantha Culligan presented the concept of a Stronger South African Nation website to the audience.