There was an air of excitement at the Hatfield Campus of the University of Pretoria when students returned to class after their winter break.
Monday was the first time all the students and staff were on campus after nearly two years, following the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.
Zwané Grobler, a first-year BSc Human Physiology student, said she is “happy to be back on campus. I like being on campus more than online.”
Neo Nkwe, who is in the first year of his LLB degree after completing his Bachelor of Arts degree, said: “I’m super excited to be back on campus. I now feel like a real student.”
Nkwe said studying online from home was difficult because of load-shedding and wi-fi connection problems.
“I did not feel like a student when I was at home. It feels like the start of 2019,” he said.
Students were met by a carnival-like atmosphere where there was free popcorn, food, haircuts, manicures, and entertainment by TuksFM.
The festive event was also a culmination of the University’s Giving Day campaign, which was launched a few weeks ago to raise an additional R100 million for several major projects over the next three years.
The campaign is championed by UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe.
“It fills me with much joy and satisfaction to see the campus bubbling with activity again and to so many of you back on campus,” said Professor Kupe.
“For many of you, this is the first time on campus following the restrictions placed on all of us as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Explaining some of the reasons for the campaign, he said: “As with many other universities, we have incurred unbudgeted expenses related to protective equipment, sanitisers, and deep-cleaning.
“The provision of laptops and data added to this burden, as well as other expenses that related to the transition to online teaching and learning. Many students and families have been adversely affected by the ongoing pandemic.”
Professor Kupe added: “This is why we are here today, to see how our collective efforts can help to alleviate the funding challenges and to raise the much-needed funds for our students to provide them with the quality education that we are known for and to support the projects we have that make us one of the leading tertiary institutions in the world.”
He said while the main aim was to raise funds, the campaign would also increase the culture of philanthropy at the university.
“Giving can be done through mentoring, participating as guest lecturers or sitting on boards; it can take many other forms,” explained Professor Kupe.
“UP encourages any donation, no matter the amount. Giving needs to become part of everyone’s mindset at UP.”
“We also encourage other stakeholders, such as the alumni body, to give back to their alma mater.”
The initiative targets staff, students, alumni, the Executive Committee and the University Council, the highest decision-making body.
The campaign also has an international outlook, and will look to alumni abroad, UP’s foundations in the UK and the US, large corporations and high-net-worth individual relationships.
Professor Kupe said the campaign aligns with UP’s strategy to:
• Enhance access and successful student learning;
• Strengthen the University’s research, international profile and global engagement;
• Foster and sustain a transformed, inclusive and equitable University community;
• Enhance institutional sustainability; and
• Strengthen the University’s social responsiveness and impact in society.
He added that the funds raised will be used for student support; this includes tuition fees, and costs associated with accommodation, textbooks, food and devices.
“We have many academically deserving students whose families cannot afford their study costs,” Professor Kupe said.
Several other key projects were highlighted as part of the campaign.
Funding will be allocated to:
• The Faculty of Veterinary Science’s Onderstepoort Veterinary Academic Hospital, a one-of-a-kind institution in Africa that provides world-class practical training to final-year veterinary and veterinary nursing students, as well as a valuable service to the greater veterinary and pet-owning community;
• TuksSport, which has produced athletes of national and international stature through high-performance coaching, sport science and medical support, and sound sport management – funding is needed to continue creating a platform for talented UP athletes across more than 30 sporting codes;
• A range of projects across all faculties that contribute to South Africa’s sustainable future;
• UP Residences, which strive towards the creation of a community that fosters academic excellence, safety and security, personal development and growth, and to render professional services; and
• UP Museums; the Museums actively curate the collective memory of the institution’s finest collections and archives for research, conservation, engagement and interpretation for the community.
Professor Kupe explained that government subsidies and income from student fees are not enough to sustain UP’s high quality of education, excellence and research that address local and global challenges.
“UP has always relied on third-stream income but is now intensifying its fundraising initiatives in order to improve on its world-class facilities.”
Hernan Finkel, Deputy Director of Relationship Management and Fundraising in the Department of Institutional Advancement. said: “We are looking to raise ‘new money’, so either funds specifically given to the campaign from existing donors or from new donors.
“We will not be counting what we raise during the year from our usual course of business to the campaign target.”
Finkel added that philanthropy is centred on kindness and concern for the common good.
“We would like to see more of this at UP and from the external and internal community.”
He added that several donor events are being arranged.
To participate in the campaign, visit https://givingday.up.ac.za/
This event will be held again in 2023 and 2024, with a view to it becoming an annual feature.