Students and student leaders joined at the amaMaties Hub in preparation for the 3rdNew Hope Summit in August. This year’s summit will be hosted by the University of Cape Town (UCT) and focuses on the challenges facing higher education in South Africa.
The New Hope Summit is an initiative of students in the Western Cape to talk about issues such as racism, transformation, integration and language. Discussion groups will be formed during the summit and led by 30 facilitators from the six participating universities and colleges.
Dr Leslie van Rooi, Head of the Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert (FVZS) Institute for Student Leadership Development, addressed the diverse group preparing for the New Hope Summit, calling on the delegates to think differently about the possibilities for student leadership in improving the country. Van Rooi described the summit as an opportunity for students to think about “their role in society through student leadership and participating in realising their vision for society”.
It is not a coincidence that the preparations for the New Hope Summit are taking placing during the celebration of the HOPE Project’s successes. The summit is a joint project of the Student Representative Council (SRC) and the FVSZ Institute, one of the initiatives in the broader HOPE Project aiming to cultivate student leadership. The focus of the New Hope Summit also ties in with the HOPE Project’s core functions of teaching and learning, research and community interaction.
Through interacting with the other higher education institutions in the region at the New Hope Summit, students spread the HOPE Project’s values and goals beyond Stellenbosch. The number of participants in this year’s summit has increased to include UCT, UWC, Boland College, False Bay College and the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). SRC members from the above institutions will serve as facilitators for the discussion groups at the summit. Participants at the summit are expected to draft a document with proposals for the Department of Higher Education and Training regarding the Green Paper for Post-School Education and Training.
Critical thinking and community interaction were emphasised during the information sessions, with Van Rooi stressing the New Hope Summit’s continuous role in shedding light on the issues and opportunities in the country.
In welcoming the students, Simoné Nortman, the SRC’s HOPE Project liaison and member for Leadership Development, called upon them to be active role-players and seek to improve higher education in South Africa. Louis van der Riet, SRC vice chair, introduced the HOPE Project to the multi-campus group assembled and presented a video sharing the project’s initiatives and successes. Van der Riet encouraged those present to share in their ideas and thoughts in preparation for the New Hope Summit.
According to Nortman the HOPE Project is still a vague idea for many students on campus and explained the project’s objectives as “taking our research and interaction to improve the community and the continent.” The aim is to provide Hope for Africa, from Africa and Nortman made clear the intention to expand the HOPE Project’s initiatives beyond Stellenbosch University and taking the summit beyond the Western Cape.
It is the opportunity to transcend mere discussion that draws some students to the summit as delegates. Cathy Wood, former SRC member for Transformation, shared her experiences at the previous summits and the appeal for those who want to “practically change things, not just discuss issues” and present solutions to the government and community.
Students drew from their own experiences as motivation to apply. Jo-Ann Bate, TSR member and medical student, recalled the experience interacting with patients during community service and their need for access to higher education as they “see no future for themselves”. Kylie Hoffman, a student in the LLL Media House, attended the summit in 2011 and decided to apply as a delegate this year because the New Hope Summit provides opportunities for discussion and cooperation.
Marnus Havenga, one of the coordinators from the Stellenbosch SRC, described the summit’s development as a learning curve, while the prospect of the six educational institutions coming together in discussion is encouraging. Havenga reminded the students that it is “difficult to facilitate change, but it is possible to start with ideas and that’s why we are here”.