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close this bookTeacher Education for Transformation: The Case of the University of the Western Cape, South Africa (CIE, 2002, 73 p.)
close this folderChapter 7: Conclusion and discussion
View the document(introduction...)
View the document7.1 Students’ life histories
View the document7.2 Language and learning
View the document7.3 Curriculum design
View the document7.4 Teaching Practice
View the document7.5 Recruitment of students
View the document7.6 Follow up research

7.1 Students’ life histories

The account of the biographies of the students in the HDE class of 2000 indicates that the vast majority come from very poor backgrounds. The majority are Xhosa-speaking and come from the rural Eastern Cape. Many students are older than the expected age for those in their fourth year of tertiary education. Most come from very disadvantaged and poor backgrounds and have severe financial difficulties, which means that they struggle to pay their fees as well as support themselves during their HDE year.

The social disadvantages faced by these students impact significantly on the HDE programme. Students struggle to pay transport costs to Teaching Practice schools. No reading is prescribed outside of the course readers, as lecturers know that students cannot afford to buy books. This has a negative effect on the culture of reflection which the programme aims to promote. This results in enormous amounts of pressure and stress, which impacts negatively on their concentration and learning ability.

In addition, the academic history of many of the students is very weak and most did not have maths and science subjects for matric. This means that they end up with teaching subjects such as History and Xhosa for which there is a limited demand. More than a third of the students entered the course via the non-graduate route, which means that they did not get a matriculation exemption. A number of students are doing the course because this was the only way that they could study at university. This raises a number of very difficult dilemmas. On the one hand, UWC has a history of caring for the disadvantaged and opening the doors of learning as far as possible. The fact that a number of students said that they are studying at UWC because it is an institution that cares for the poor black student and is seen as being financially more lenient and affordable than other institutions, means that it attracts students from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. While this is very laudable it brings a number of problems with it that seem almost insurmountable. Their poor academic background, coupled with language difficulties, and the fact that many students live under severe stress due to financial problems, means that these students are not necessarily going to make the best teachers. They often struggle with critical reflection, have a very poor general and subject specific knowledge, and have a low self-esteem.

UWC is faced with the dilemma of having to increase student numbers in order to survive, and of having to try to attract better students and more students with a maths and science background. This means that it has to try and compete for a market that has been largely tapped by the sister universities in the area. At the same time, it wants to remain true to its mission of serving the poorer and previously disadvantaged communities who cannot afford to pay for their studies.