By SYLVIA MUWAGWA, LLB student
For the second consecutive year, over 50 Gadra Matric School (GMS) alumni graduated from Rhodes University in a single graduation ceremony – a significant milestone in the journey to transform education in Makhanda.
GMS is a second-chance school for learners who seek to improve their marks in selected National Senior Certificate subjects to accumulate the required points to gain access to universities.
Gadra Education (the holding organisation of GMS) partnered with Rhodes University in 2015 to assist with the vision of Pathways to the Future, which was spearheaded by Rhodes University Vice-Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela upon his inauguration. The initiative aims to address unequal access to quality education in Makhanda.
Gadra Education Manager Dr Ashley Westaway said GMS had become Rhodes University’s biggest feeder school in 2015 and has more recently emerged as the biggest producer of Rhodes University graduates.
Westaway said the partnership had helped Gadra gain physical access to Rhodes for its students and prepare and support them to secure ‘epistemological access’ to the programmes and degrees of the university.
The partnership between Rhodes University and Gadra has resulted in tremendous educational success, especially at the Grade 12 level. Gadra’s 2021 Annual Report describes this as “Makhanda’s Meteoric Matric Rise”.
In 2012, only ten local learners from no-fee schools gained admission into Rhodes University. In 2015, 62% of local learners passed matric, but just 26% of local matrics attained bachelor passes.
By contrast, in 2021, 82% of local learners passed, and 47% of matrics earned bachelor passes.
In 2022, 135 local learners gained admission to Rhodes University.
The Gadra bridging programme started in 2016, allowing select GMS students to be registered for one or two National Senior Certificate (NSC) subjects and one or two first-year credits at Rhodes University simultaneously.
Westaway said the programme had aided the access of local students to the University and local students graduating from the University, “which is important for the city’s long-term sustainability”.
Westaway said that having over 50 Gadra alumni graduate from Rhodes University in 2021 and 2022 was a fantastic achievement.
“We are a community organisation, and we exist for the sake of the community. The organisation is very well-known and loved in the community. So when you have this kind of volume of students coming through and realising their goals, our ties and links with the community get stronger and stronger.”
Gadra alumnus Thembani Buka, a part-time teacher at Victoria Girls Primary School, just graduated with his Bachelor of Education. When he went to GMS, he said he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life.
“Gadra taught me a lot about grounding myself as there were programmes that involved mentoring. I came from a disadvantaged public school, and Gadra taught me about disciplining myself, and their teachers gave me a sense of direction, which motivated me to be a teacher,” he said.
Rhodes Community Engagement director Diana Hornby said the university had been working on driving development through equal, mutually-beneficial community-university partnerships, which had yielded promising societal impact.
“Our partnership with Gadra is an example of highly effective collaboration. This is a significant shift away from deficit models to strategic engagement with our broader community in the interest of transforming our country.”
Rhodes VC Mabizela expressed pride in these young people who “have taken full advantage of their opportunity”.
“I honour, commend and salute Gadra for the tremendous work in assisting these young people in regaining their confidence and dignity after having struggled with their matric year.”
Source: Rhodes University Communications